Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for everyone if I just disappeared. Would anyone wonder what happened to me, worry about me? Megan’s constant text messages that say, “Get ruffles, peanutbutter, milk and juice at the store please,” would go unanswered. Good friends would not hear from me. I wouldn’t show up for work – and Global Word Processing couldn’t send me all those crappy, huge projects that no one else wants to do. Maybe someone would wonder – where is she? What happened to her? The older kids who live their own life would figure it out eventually.
That’s how I felt on my 11th birthday when everyone forgot about me – because my sister was sick in the hospital. I felt as if I’d disappeared – I didn’t really exist. Yet I finally did get it.
On Saturday morning, after a night of dancing all night long to awesome live classic rock music with a bunch of my friends, I managed to pull myself out of bed and jetted over the hill to Santa Cruz to play my ukulele on the beach and sing with at least 60 or 70 other people. They show up at this one beach rain or shine, and they play and sing. I try not to miss being there with the group that calls themselves either “Sons of the Beach” or “Babes of the Beach,” because there’s nothing like playing ukulele and singing on the beach with dozens of people – there’s always someone with an upright bass or even a bass ukulele, conga drum players, guitar players join in, you name it. We bring music stands and the Santa Cruz ukulele songbooks if we have them – something you should not do without – one can play songs on guitar, ukulele, anything.
I got there right before 10 am and when I walked around the building next to the Crow’s Nest Restaurant to set up with the gang, I had to stop because what I saw took my breath away, literally. The fog had lifted and the sun shined on the ocean, bright blue sky, sail boats close up gliding by, the lighthouse on the rocks majestically presiding over the beach to the right, waves crashing against the store and the birds…people playing volleyball on the beach, and the group the wonderful group of people I’d found who welcomed me each week – from all walks of life and backgrounds – no one cares who you were or where you came from. We were all there to have fun and play music. I had brought the sign someone had given me the week before with a picture of a guitar on it that said, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” Everyone loved that sign and wanted me to bring it back. There were many older people in the group, mixed in with younger ones, even children – and as we formed our large circle, I couldn’t stop thinking of how this reminded me of growing up in San Francisco when we sang along with random people sitting on stoops or standing around playing guitar – how we all played and sang together and no one ever cared or worried about who you were or where you came from. A different life.
Knowing that it still exists gave me great comfort somehow.
I felt as if I belonged with these people, and had already gotten to know a few of them from camping with them at Burning Uke for four days down at Big Sur, an amazing experience, one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. Music has always been such a huge part of my life.
Okay, here we go – we’re going to start to play and sing now – we always open with an old song called “All of Me” and later close with “Please Don’t Talk About me When I’m gone,” both old standards from the 1920’s and then we play dozens of songs that someone gets tapped to pick each week – from old standards to a couple of awesome Hawaiian songs, to folksy music, even Beatles and Bob Dylan and a bit of rock n’ roll. We play and sing it all. It doesn’t matter. We even got to do City of New Orleans, a song that tells a story – I never get tired of playing and singing them.
It was so warm that I got my shoes and socks off between songs, and my jacket went and we played and sang with the ocean stretched before us.
I couldn’t leave right after the jam, no way. I had to hang out all day. As I sat on a stone bench putting away my music stand, an older woman sitting along waiting for someone began to talk to me. She told me her name was Jean, and that she loved playing uke and singing. She asked where I lived, and I told her Sunnyvale.
“Oh yes, I lived there for many years, until we finally got to move here, about 25 or maybe 30 years ago now…”
I nodded. “That’s a long time.”
“Yes, I’m 94 now!”
Wow. Ninety-four? I looked over at this lovely, beautiful woman – yes, older with wrinkles, but still so spry and alert, holding a ukulele in her hands – maybe the uke somehow was like a time machine…hahaha! Funny thought.
She went on to tell me all about her kids and grandkids, and asked me questions about my life. I told her about all of my kids, that I was going to be a grandma for the first time this year and I was excited, that ‘d found music with the ukulele groups and it made me happy. She agreed.
As we both sat there, I thought again – I could disappear and stay right here in this spot and never go back. Oh yes. I could.