A few months ago, my family came in town for Thanksgiving. Two cousins, two grandparents, two aunts, and two uncles suddenly had made a large, boisterous appearance in my life. At first, I was a bit scared my short and sacred holiday would turn into a weekend of awkward silences and petty small talk. I feared I would have to use the “I have homework” excuse more than once. Well, things did end up being awkward for a bit. The shaky conversations my family and I had felt unstable with only my aunts and mother as supporting structure. But then, my uncle dug up his old fender guitar, and I became relieved to find out my family loved music as much as I did. As the days of vacation went by, I realized my family not only loved music, they understood its magic. They acknowledged the fact that music was more powerful than any drug and that music could evoke any emotion.
Four guitars does not exactly make a symphony orchestra, but it did not matter. What my family and I had was enough. It was enough to make something- to make music. For awhile, the noise my family and I produced sounded like a jumbled mess of four scratched records playing simultaneously. For awhile, my family and I were still separate people grasping for something in common. But then, the Grateful Dead was able to bring us together. That Thanksgiving, I was grateful for the Grateful Dead.
As I began to play Grateful Dead’s song, “Friend of the Devil,” the noise of other instruments around me dimmed. “I know that song,” my uncle told me as he began to play a simpler version of the notes my fingers were strumming. My brother, also knowing the song, started to finger pick a walk-down line that was normally a bass part. He then began to sing- not with a spectacular voice, but with a voice that appreciated music. That is when my cousin Jeremy entered with an advanced and rippling guitar solo he was making up on the spot. His endless rifts made up the final part of our edited and reformed song. In the words of Bob Marley, “We be jamming.”
Jamming helped me connect with my family. There was no spiritual connection, no sign from above. We didn’t sign a contract to become the next Von Trapp family and our heartwarming story wasn’t broadcasted on the 6 o’clock news. We had a much simpler connection. Through our simple, yet passionate, love for music, we were able to relate to each other and find that invisible thread of familiarity that was wound through all of us.
It is nice to know we only needed each other and a few guitars. It is nice to know nothing else really mattered. It is nice to know it is no longer “my family and I.” It is just “we.”
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