What was the best Christmas present?
For me, it would be something a family member made, like the pictures and the book my granddaughters made and gave to me last month.
Or, maybe it would be the certificate for “free violin lessons” from my seven-year-old grandson Jake.
Jake has been taking violin for about a year. One day he will be a good performer, but he is not yet ready for Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, nor has he been trained to teach others to play.
I have always wanted to know how a violin works, wondering, how does that funny looking instrument make such beautiful music in the hands of an unaccomplished player? In my efforts to play other musical instruments, I know I could never be an adequate musician. But my lack of talent does not keep me from wanting to know how good musicians make their instruments work.
Several years ago, when I told my wife that I wished I could play a violin, she bought me one. It was an inexpensive, mail-order version. I could never make it work. It had come without a bridge, a small but essential part that positions and supports strings, aligning them in a way that when the violin bow makes contact, there is a sound.
So we had packed up the violin until the other day when Jake came to give me the violin lesson he promised at Christmas.
With the help of Jake’s dad, we adjusted a new bridge and put the violin in working order.
Jake had a lesson plan in mind. He was going to teach me to play part of the scale using the violin’s E-string. Using tape, he carefully marked the places on the violin where my finger would push down that string to make different notes.
His plan for that first lesson centered on that E-string.
As we were about to begin, in a last adjustment, the E-string broke.
Although I thought we would have to postpone the lesson, Jake calmly said, “I think you can learn with the A-string. You can do the same things as on the E-string and get the same practice.”
That mature reaction to crisis made me think my grandson might have the makings of a real teacher, not just a child pretending, as he did in earlier times when he dressed up as a garbage man, firefighter, policeman, or pilot
My confidence in him increased as he carefully instructed me how to hold the violin and the bow, stressing that good posture is required for good violin playing. He gave me several drills to play a series of notes using the reference points he had marked. I respectfully responded to his suggestions for adjusting my positions and movements.
When the lesson was over, Jake, who has just learned to write, carefully put down instructions to prepare for the next lesson.
I was amazed at how much I learned from this time with a seven-year-old teacher. He was cool, calm and authoritative as he guided me through my beginning experience with a violin. Every time I hear a classical violinist or a country music fiddler, my pleasure will be a little richer.
Even more than the value of what I learned, I treasure the memory of the joy I got from having the seven-year-old teach the seventy-two-year-old—and know the pride my teacher had in doing such a good job.
If there are other lessons from Jake’s Christmas present, one of the most important may be this: There are people of all ages around us, with experiences and talents that could make them wonderful teachers if we just honor them by asking them to share with us.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage.
This week’s (January 20, 24) guest is Emily Colin, author of “The Memory Thief,” in which a young woman begs her mountain-climbing husband not to take on Mount McKinley in Alaska. He goes anyway, promising, “I will come back to you.” But, as she feared, he falls to his death. Still, that promise to return is haunting. Learning how it is fulfilled is the backbone of the novel, which is set in Wilmington with side trips to the Swiss Alps, Colorado, Chapel Hill, and Wildacres Retreat in the North Carolina mountains.
A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.
Bookwatch Classics (programs from earlier years) airs Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4).
This week’s (January 23) guests are Catherine Bishir and Michael Southern authors of “A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina.”
Just in time for holiday giving, here are some good ideas about a variety of North Carolina related books, one or two of which might be perfect for a last minute gift.
But first a bit of news about UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch’s broadcast schedule. Beginning in January, the program will air on Sundays at 12 noon, with a repeat on the following Thursday at 5 p.m.
Now, back to possible gifts, here is an idea for any beer lover on your list, “North Carolina Craft Beer & Breweries” by Hillsborough craft brewer, Erik Lars Myers. “Once upon a time,” says Myers, “I would have said brewing beer was my hobby. Now, it’s my life.”
In his new book he shares his bountiful knowledge about the history of the craft beer business in North Carolina and where you can go to get the freshest and best local brews at small breweries all across the state. He will share more of that knowledge on North Carolina Bookwatch this weekend. (Friday, December 21, at 9:30 p.m., and Sunday December 23, at 5 p.m.)
For a North Carolinian who is interested in World War II, here is a perfect suggestion: “War Zone—World War II off the North Carolina Coast.” Author Kevin Duffus reviews the first seven months of the war when German U-boats destroyed U.S. ships off the North Carolina coast at will. He also tells some of the human interest stories that accompanied military action in the North Carolina zone of that war. (Dec. 28, 30)
A book that will be important to people who like to read about the Civil War and those interested in the struggle for Civil Rights is David Cecelski’s “The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War.” Galloway was an escaped slave from Wilmington, who became a James Bond-like agent for the Union Army. After the war, he turned his charisma and savvy to politics and ran circles around his white fellow legislators. Cecelski’s great storytelling gifts make this biography better reading than much of today’s historic fiction. (Note: This weekend the schedule will change. North Carolina Bookwatch will air on Sunday, January 6, at 12 noon, and Thursday, January 10, at 5 p.m.)
Cecelski’s friend, Bland Simpson, has a new book that covers the Civil War era from two different perspectives. The first is that of a talented waterman and captain, but one who was enslaved and badly treated. The second perspective is that of a naval officer who had his own set of challenges as he served first the United States and then the Confederacy. It is hard to see how anyone could bring these points of view together in the same book, but Simpson, has done it in “Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War.” (Sunday, January 13, and Thursday, January 17)
In Emily Colin’s debut novel, “The Memory Thief,” a young woman begs her mountain-climbing husband not to take on Mount McKinley in Alaska. He goes anyway, promising, “I will come back to you.” But, as she feared, he falls to his death. Still, that promise to return is haunting. Learning how it is fulfilled is the backbone of the novel. (January 20, 24)
Finally, an idea for children and young teens if you are wondering what they are reading now that the Harry Potter series has come to an end. Sheila Turnage faces this challenge in “Three Times Lucky” by introducing us to the crime-solving talents of two pre-teens from Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Mo LoBeau is sassy, charming, and smart. She and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, lead Turnage’s readers through a most entertaining murder investigation. (January 27, 31)
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV until the end of December. For more information or to view prior programs, visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch/ A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/north-carolina-books-for-last-minute-gifts/