After Sedgewick came home from school and finished the snack his grandmother made for him, he always liked to go find his grandfather and see what he was up to. He’d sneak around like a detective until he finally found his grandfather. Some days Sedgewick would then just walk up and say hi. But other days, if his grandfather was doing something really interesting, Sedgewick would stay back and watch from a distance. He usually did this when his grandfather was playing the guitar.
Today was one of those days. Sedgewick had hunted his grandfather down, finding him sitting on a stool in the garage, one leg resting on the work bench, the other on the top rung of the stool. He held the guitar on his lap and strummed away with his callused fingers. Sedgewick sat in the doorway, scrunched up against one wall, and listened. His eyes followed his grandfather’s movements and his ears picked up the music. Sedgewick’s eyes were filled with wonder.
Finally, after a few songs Sedgewick stood up and leisurely wandered into the garage, within sight of his grandfather. He acted all nonchalant, like he hadn’t been sitting there. He figured his grandfather probably knew he was sitting there, but if his grandfather wouldn’t let on, Sedgewick wouldn’t either.
“Whatcha playin’, Grandpa?”
“Oh, this is an old song. A song we used to sing in the days of the Great Depression.” Sedgewick nodded slowly, but his furled eyebrows told the real story.
A few minutes of silence past before Sedgewick asked, “What’s the Great Depression?” His grandfather smiled, but didn’t immediately answer Sedgewick’s question. Instead he told him to listen to the words of the song, and he sang it again. Sedgewick pulled a second stool right up next to his grandfather. He perched his little body atop the stool, rested his head in his hands, and listened to the words his grandfather sang in that old, scratchy voice.
Later that day Sedgewick sat by himself on the front porch. His elbows were resting on his knees, and his hands were supporting his head. He sat there humming the song his grandfather had been playing earlier that day. Some days Sedgewick could sit and hum a tune for hours. It always annoyed the kids at school. But Sedgewick was always listening to music. He was drawn to it, like a rat to the piper.
Now most kids like music, but not the kind that Sedgewick liked. Most kids like kid’s music. The kind with a silly tune or goofy lyrics. A clownish person would usually sing the song, throwing in just enough of the ridiculous to make the kids laugh. Sedgewick thought that kind of music was a joke. The kids at school would always laugh and carry on when they sang those songs. Songs about worms and trucks and dogs. Always dogs. But Sedgewick refused to sing them. He’d sit quietly in the corner and hum a little tune to himself. Usually a tune his grandfather had taught him. The kind of music Sedgewick liked was real music. The kind that talked about something real, like the days of the Great Depression. The kind that had a story to tell. Those songs had meaning to Sedgewick.
One of his faintest memories is of his father singing songs to him. But his dad never sang silly, baby songs that fathers usually sing to their little children. Sedgewick’s father sang real songs. Songs about life. Songs about hard work and broken hearts. Songs about war. Sedgewick could barely remember what the songs were about, he hardly remembered even hearing them. But he knew they weren’t about bubble gum or wearing socks. They were real songs, with stories to tell.
As Sedgewick sat on the front porch, humming his song, a robin flew down in the grass in the front yard. Sedgewick didn’t notice the bird at first, but it noticed him. It cocked its head, and slowly hopped forward. Sedgewick looked up and saw the bird, and his humming fell silent. The bird seemed to look right at him, and then chirped a few notes of its own. Sedgewick listened intently, trying to hear what story the bird was trying to tell.