When I was 19 or 20 my dad tried to help fulfill my wish to play guitar. He told me to cut my nails and then showed me a scale exercise to practice on the strings, plucking as he moved along the fretboard. He made it seem effortless and fun. But when I tried, the guitar jutted into my arms and chest as I held it, and maneuvering all those strings to play a chromatic scale didn't seem worth the sore fingers it caused.
In my mid-twenties I tried again, purchasing a small guitar that suited my hands fairly well. I learned four chords and could haltingly play a few songs. I asked my husband, who I was dating at the time, to help me learn a Credence Clearwater Revival song. An hour later we had broken up, and I had resolved never to touch a guitar again.
Then came this summer, when I taught sumer camp at Fairyland and found out that one of the other teachers is also a musician, and lives in my neighborhood. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I had booked a lesson. A ukelele lesson.
My new ukelele has four easy-to-press strings and weighs less than a pound. I can wrap my fingers all the way around its neck. Yesterday I had my first lesson, and it was the first time I truly felt successful with a stringed instrument. All day I sang my favorite songs, imagining the happy strum of my ukelele that would soon sing along with me. Later that night I practiced the transition from C to G7 until I could do it without peeking, then played a triumphant Row, Row, Row Your Boat. It might be too early to tell, but I think my ukelele and I will be friends for a long time.