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Lobes and Ukes

All the circuits are jammed in my brain.

Normally I can toggle between lobes—the right, the left, the drafting, the writing, the mother, the worker. The switch needs some WD-40, I guess, because I haven’t been able to do it for a while. It’s like trying to shift gears without engaging the clutch. “Grind a pound, serve a pound!” My mother would call when I was learning to drive.

It’s not all Miley Cyrus’ fault, but in truth, my engine started to act up around the time I saw that clip of her in the stuffed animal costume.

A few of my friends are musicians, and I’ve noticed over the years that they use their instruments to collect themselves. One has an office guitar that he keeps in a stand by the conference table. He plays a song or two between work blocks. “This one’s about counting cows out the car window,” he used to say when I worked in the same space. Another musician I know plays a few songs before bed to crowd out worry.

With these friends in mind, I asked for a ukulele last Christmas, and was lucky to get one. In just two months’ time, it’s become my B.F.F. At night after the kids are in bed, I take it into a scalding-hot bath, which probably means I’m violating all ten commandments of owning an instrument. I lay a towel over my knees so I won’t get the body wet, and try to tab out my songs.

I’ve learned some chords: A, A minor, F, G, and B minor. From the internet, I printed out a sheet of fret diagrams, which I should definitely laminate. C is my favorite chord. It’s just one finger on the bottom string, third fret. B, on the other hand, requires all non-thumbs, and I don’t know how anyone with man-hands can play it.

During the day, I’m not in the tub with my ukulele. My children and I have exchanges like this:

Kid: “Mom! It’s no fair! He liked the show I picked, but I don’t like the show he picked!”

Me: “I don’t have any control over what you like.”

They notice I’m not lobe-limber right now, that I’m distracted, and out-to sea. So they fight more with each other to try and pull me back to shore. Like a man-eating shark that is also a dingy. Trolling for a mother with a blown clutch and fried circuits.

“Everything’s ok, I’m just treading water,” I want to say to them. “Here in the tub. With a ukulele.”


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