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Pauline Lerner

The phoenix (a defining experience in my life)

November 26, 2006 at 7:43 AM

My marriage was falling apart and so was I. I went for a walk at lunch time on a gorgeous Indian summer day in September (but it was November) and stumbled onto a typical scene from the 60s (but it was the 80s). A few people were sitting on the ground under a tree singing folksongs while one man played a guitar. I sat a few feet away from them and started singing along softly so that no one would hear me. They heard. They invited me to join them. I was hooked all over again. It was like the phoenix rising from the ashes within me.

Weeks and then months went by. I’ve got to find that man with the guitar and tell him to play it again, I thought. This time I’ll play my fiddle with him, if I can get up the nerve. It’s been so many years since I’ve done anything like this.

For months I sought him. I knew that he worked in the same building as I, and that was my only clue. Once I saw him running at lunchtime across the park from me. I wanted to call out to him, but I didn’t know his name. (You should have thrown a rock at me, he told me later.) Another time, I saw him at a seminar at work. I planned to speak to him afterwards, but he was sitting behind me and he sneaked out quietly before the seminar ended. I grew more determined. The next time I saw him at a seminar, I sat near him and kept my eyes on him. Success at last! I spoke to him and told him my mission.

That weekend I went to his home with my fiddle and we played. It was November, unusually cold and snowing. He had a fire roaring in his fireplace. We played and played and sang and played and played and… My fingertips are hurting, and I’ve got to stop playing soon, I told him. One more Tom Paxton song, was his response. We played and played some more. Hey, do you remember this one? I said…and on and on…When I finally stopped and put my instrument away, my fingertips were torn and bleeding. No matter. I had come home.

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