Sax and the Trailer Park

Our house was full of music.  Dad was a musician, and did his best to draw it out of all of us.  He played tenor sax from the time he was a young boy, and that saxophone was one of the few possessions that he treasured.

It’s gone missing.

His mother bought it for him, $5/week, with money earned in the mills.  She wanted him to get a broad education.  She wanted him to get out of the ghetto that was Methuen, Massachusetts in the 1930’s.  A millworker, she was raised in Sicily and was much more educated than her contemporaries.  She knew the value of an education.  Her father managed a vineyard, and because Domenica LaRosa was friends with his daughter?  The wealthy vineyard owner let her sit in with the tutor through her early teens – perhaps the equivalent of an 8th grade education.

Working in the non-unionized sweatshops of the time, enduring conditions that can crush the human soul, she wanted her only son to have a better life.  To her, the saxaphone represented a chance in a lottery, which might give her son a ticket out.

He played in jazz bands throughout high school.  The money he made went toward the college fund. Although he didn’t make enough to avoid a year of millwork following high school, he earned enough to enter the engineering program at Northeastern at 19 years old.  Playing in bands all the way through university, he found both joy and sustenance in his music.

After graduation, he moved to Detroit, earning a spot in the “select” management training program at Ford Motor Company, alongside the likes of a young Lee Iacocca.  But his mother became ill, and he returned to Boston to care for her as she battled cancer.  His father died shortly after he returned, and this young man with a bright future buried both of his parents within 3 years of college graduation.

He was lost.  An only child, his extended family of aunts and cousins could only provide so much help…  It was the saxophone that again gave him sustenance.  He returned to the jazz clubs, surrounded by a family of musicians, until he was able to get his feet under him and return to engineering.

Fast forward to the 1970’s – Dad is living in the suburbs of Cincinnati with four children.  He encouraged my oldest sister, S, to play saxophone – having the old tenor sax repaired, gold-plated.  It found new life.  For him, as much as S.  A few years later, my sister, T, switched from flute to sax, and rocked that old tenor in the high school jazz band for a few years.  It had to give him tremendous pleasure to sit through those interminable music programs, just to get to the set by the jazz band…

Last weekend, during a conversation with Mom, she asked me about the sax… she had assumed Dad had given it to me, since it didn’t turn up during the last round of household excavations. 

daisyfae:  No, i didn’t play sax.  i assumed S or T would have it…

Mom:  S was asking about it, she doesn’t have it either.  T wouldn’t have taken it, since she’d have had to lug it on an airplane.

daisyfae:  i don’t have it.  we need to find it.  i really hope it hasn’t been sold…

Regardless of where it is, the sad truth is that my initial reaction is that someone has removed the saxophone.  And that somehow it has found it’s way into a pawnshop somewhere…  Mom wasn’t tracking my thought train.  

There will be hell to pay…

21 thoughts on “Sax and the Trailer Park

  1. i was jumping to that conclusion before your (weak) knees were even flexed. a very touching story and an utter pity that the sax has gone missing. hoping it turns again… “mysteriously” or otherwise.

  2. That’s the trouble with having as much stuff around as you say your Mom does, you don’t notice when some little thing walks out the door. My reaction is the same as yours, unfortunately. Although if it’s like my apartment, it could still be buried somewhere. Hope that’s the case.

  3. Daisyfae–

    I felt the same way when my Gramma died in the early ’70’s, and my dad sold off Pop’s banjo and some of the other musical instruments, including a silver-plated baritone and a fiddle Pop made from a gourd.

    I somehow managed to snag his silver-plated Velvetone trumpet along with his Hohner EchoHarp. I learned to play both in Cincinnati.

  4. annie – hoping i’m wrong, and that my gut reaction is just me being jaded…

    gnu – headed down to The Park today to take mom to lunch and do some digging… grrr….

    Bb – yep. he was a good animal…

    paisley – hope to find something out today. mom’s house is a bit cluttered, so it could still be there… fingers crossed.

    silverstar – with Mom? the important stuff, the stuff with meaning, gets lost amidst the chaff of plastic flowers, plastic butter tubs and piles of catalogs from 2004…

    archie – i have distinct memories of him playing that thing, rockin’ the house. my friends thought we were playing a Boots Randolph record… and were stunned to walk in and see Dad wailin’ away!

    Bunk – A gourd fiddle? That’s fabulous! Sorry it got lost along the way…

    nursemyra – thanks… hope to have a good day in the park…

  5. Similar story about a legendary family treasure. When my dad moved into assisted living, we cleaned out the house, got rid of a lot of stuff and the rest went with dad. He had a large gold ring with a beautiful red stone given to him by a friend (who would have become his brother-in-law, if he hadn’t died of TB at 22.) Dad wore it when he went to any dress-up function. All four of us loved the story as well as the ring. Who would get it someday?

    After he’d been at the assisted living complex for about a year, he asked me to bring him the ring so he could give it to his grandson. I brought it and left it there. Guess what–a year later, it’s gone? Can’t find it anywhere. My thought was someone in housekeeping helped themselves. Dad’s reaction – “If “Middle-Sister” gave it away, that’s ok with me”. What? Yikes, No-Way. I felt terrible that he would even think I “gave it away”. We all searched his apartment at different times over the next two years and it never showed up.

    A few days after he passed, while clearing out his apartment, it was found on the top shelf at the back of a cabinet, under a pile of papers. Glory Be! I was vindicated. Hope the Sax turns up under a pile somewhere. These things are too important to our family myths and legends.

  6. I don’t have a very close family…by choice mostly, and consequently I don’t have ANY family heirlooms. my family has neither the respect nor the sentiment to retain things that may have had value, emotional or monetary.

    so, the things I value are the things that I’ve collected throughout MY life and every thing in my tiny house must earn its’ place: the quilt on my bed, the cast-iron in the kitchen, the wooden bowl holding shoes by the front door, the steer horns on my mantel, the old boards that back the dartboard, are all some of my favorite things.

    when my home was broken into I had to be amused that the only things taken were the things I valued the least…dvd player, clock radio, backpack, and other mundane item. apparently everything that means the most to me is completely worthless to the desperate thief.

    what the hell am I getting at? when I read your post I could totally relate to the idea of loosing a sentimental item. but after you mentioned “pawn shop” I thought that, if it’s truly lost to you and your family, it may be that it is becoming an heirloom in its’ new home and nourishing another soul.

    sorry for waxing sappy….started the Super Bowl beer a little early.

    hope your treasure is found soon and safe.

    de-lurked for what, the third time? must be the beer.

  7. middlesister – glad your story had clear resolution… suspect i’ll never know. part of me knows that it’s just “stuff”… and i’m not much on “stuff”…

    jenuine – thanks for de-lurking. a good lesson in there – and yes, it was an object with meaning. But you’re right – it wasn’t his salvation, but just a symbol of it… like the idea that it may be out there, being played by some sweet emo-kid in a high school jazz band.

    unbearable banishment – spent some time today mucking around at mom’s. no luck. she remembers him playing it in 2000 – shortly before he hit the hard slide into ICU. It could still be there… but yeah. here’s to a third life for the sax in the hands of someone else.

  8. It would be a terrible shame it is has disappeared, I hope it hasn’t and it shows up eventually. I love music but I have never taken the plunge to actually learn anything.

  9. Uhhhgg. I so wanted to read this post. Way to long to keep my attention of course. Bah. I’m on a long vacation so don’t worry if you become a victim of my drunken commenting and stuff. 🙂 When my head stops spinning and both eyes function I will be back! Sorry for you haha.

  10. That’s a great story about your family history. I hate the circumstances which led you to relate it to us. Hopefully it will pop up from under a mountain of butter bowls. If not, as someone else said, maybe it’s starting another family on a road to remember.

  11. i had to be a partypooper but if it isn’t at your mom’s where else can it be? if your sis is out on airplanes then i assume she moved away and her practical things probably took precedence over her sax that she (presumably) no longer played as much. maybe she had/has some musician friends she gave it to?

    i am sure it is still out there making beautiful music. my grandmom’s husband (a.k.a. my stepgramps) would be happy to know that one of his paintings, many of which were quite bad, is hanging up prominently in our living room here in the UK. he was born + raised here, loved darts, etc. he would have never guessed that i would have taken one and i know he is up there smiling that it is still appreciated. so goes your sax.

  12. alex – i’m not optimistic, but am finding some comfort in the hope that it’s still getting use somewhere…

    upset waitress – good to see you back! well, at least one of us can see! happy vacation to you…

    squirrel queen – just dredged up happy memories of Dad wailin’ on that thing, blasting down the walls with old big band tunes…

    dave – my niece, DQ, lives next door to mom and is her caretaker for the most part. she has full access to the house, and has been battling financial trouble for years. while i don’t think she’d have taken it and sold it, i wonder if either her first husband, or some of the trailer-trash rabble that she runs with, has sent the sax along to a new home… hoping i’m wrong…

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