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The Horn in My Backyard

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I thought that there was something wrong with my son’s saxophone when I heard a loud, out-of-tune horn noise coming from my backyard yesterday after school. I assumed that my fifth grader had taken his sax outside to share the song that’s always in his head with the neighbors. Or maybe to scare off the bears who are waking up from hibernation too early, thanks to the warmer weather. Only, he wasn’t playing his sax. He was playing a 10-foot long gray PVC pipe.

Silly me.

It has never occured to me to see what kind of sound would come out of construction materials if I just blew on them. Rather, I’ve always thought of PVC pipes as something the plumber attaches to the house and then buries in the yard while I promptly forget about them.

Nicholas, on the other hand, looked at the stray PVC pipe in the backyard and thought, “Ode to Joy,” or whatever he was trying to play. It sounded like a cross between a sickly French horn and those annoying plastic horns people blow between beers at professional soccer games. And yet, it sounded he was trying to play a song, not just random notes. It had a melody. It had structure. It had mud.

This morning, he played it again, the sound echoing off the woods between the houses as if to say, “Good morning, bears!” or, “Aren’t you glad I’m not your kid, neighbors?” And yet, I don’t mind. The boy always has music in his head that has to come out somehow. Usually, it’s on the tricked-out keyboard his grandfather gave him. That’s when he makes up all sorts of sounds and songs, so that I feel like I’m, at turns, in a horror movie, a Victorian party, a Russian play, a jazz concert, etc. Sometimes it’s on his saxophone, like Saturday after we came home from the movies and he taught himself to play the theme from “Pink Panther.” So it’s really no wonder that he looks at a pipe and thinks, “horn,” whereas I think “What’s that doing in the yard?”

He’s promised me he’s not actually putting his mouth on the filthy pipe, but onto his hands. And he doesn’t try to bring the thing into the house. So, I’m going to let him get some music out in our backyard. The neighbors can thank us for the bear thwarting system later.

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