Phillip Gets an Ehru

The bedroom door promptly opens at 9am and Phillip emerges.

DAMN! He shouldn’t be up this early! He just got home at like….2am! I thought I had more time to prepare! You know, send the neighbors a friendly note on their front doors. “If you hear something that sounds like the last moments of a cat’s life, it’s not! My husband is learning a new instrument.” I thought maybe I could blast the apartment complex with an email warning them of the absolutely proud sounds of a man learning to kill a note.

My husband has been working very hard for his money. He’s been putting aside a little money each pay day for a treat for himself: an ehru.

“A what?” Yes, that’s what I said. Apparently, it’s a traditional Chinese instrument that’s something between a cello and a violin. For WEEKS I have been taught about the ehru. Phillip became obsessed. All I can think is that he picked it up from watching one of his animes, but that is truly what I love about smart people. They see, they appreciate, they want to learn new random things all the time. Smart people are always in a constant state of trivial pursuits.

Youtube videos were all I saw about how to put this instrument together, how to play it, how to care for it. PHILLIP WANTED AN EHRU!

I saw the fire in his eyes. I saw him grieving with an unsatisfied passion! I MUST HAVE THIS IN MY LIFE!

It is a lovely sounding instrument. It truly is…..(ahem)

So, he saved $35 dollars and the next thing you now, it’s headed our way. And he’s been prepping for days on where to keep it, when on his downtime he can sit properly and immerse himself in this instrument.

The ehru arrived at about 5pm, Phillip arrived home from work about 10…he gets busy tending to assembly. He hasn’t showered. He hasn’t had anything to eat, or drink. He walked through our front door and with a big smile, ripped the box open and got to work.

He tightened the strings, he slathered the bow with resin. He went back to youtube to make sure everything was at it should be….and with ehru between his legs he artfully raises his chin and posture, raises the bow to make his first note and…..well, it was sadistic. No person should ever have to endure that sound outside of wartime.

Beautifully excited he says, “It’s a little out of tune. I’ll get some rest and I’ll take care of it tomorrow. And then….my first concert.”

Oh, Lord….

So there he was the next morning. 9am. Out bed. On a normal day? He’d sleep till noon before getting ready for work. But, no. He was so excited to learn how to play this odd and unusual instrument, he was so determined to explore a new artform, that he was up at 9!

I’m a good wife. I get his coffee ready for him and just stand back and wait to see what’s gonna happen. On a normal day he would have just brushed his teeth. He was in his underwear, a bed headed cowlick as his crown, blurry eyed and searching for his glasses so that he could begin his day with his ehru.

I love my husband, I truly do. I love his enthusiasm. I love when he gets really excited about something new.

But, he sips his coffee instead, ehru in his crotch, a big smile on his face and says, “I was thinking about practicing at about noon. I know you’ll be working at your laptop, so if I’m in the bedroom, I shouldn’t disturb you. Does that work for your schedule?”

I smile and say, “Yes, it does.” (Although, I know if he were clear across the street we’d all still hear him).

Noon comes around. He has opened the blinds in the bedroom (sacrilege!), folds the laundry that is piled on the chair in the corner (ok, then!), and sets himself a tv tray for a soda and his laptop so he can begin his lessons.

And for one hour I heard what I can only describe as an array of banshee screams sung by a Chinese violin. For an hour I was audible witness to a howling death dirge of shrieks and scratches that can only be compared to water boarding. And for one hour, I was shackled to that constant low moan under tone of despair that filled the air like the smell of a rotten egg….. What the hell was that man doing in there?

I had to take a quick video so that you can understand that I do not exaggerate 🙂 You can watch the quick clip here.

Where do I go? Where do I run? How to do I escape this madness????

There was no way in the world I would have left. Had he known that I had stepped out, he would have been insulted. It would have meant that it was a bothersome noise that I simply could not and would not tolerate. No, we don’t do that to the people we love. We sit close, abide their excitement, encourage them, and applaud them for their devotion to learning something new.

He came out once his practice session was over and I showed him the video. He laughed and said, quite comically, “Sorry. I wasn’t listening to the video….I was taken aback by that hat….I’m going to have to look at that all winter, aren’t I? Great. Cute. Great. I married the Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”

Touche, baby. Touche.

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  1. learning a new instrument takes time and practice, my office used to be near a music room which had all the beginners on the chanter playing, every day and very badly, once they got good and moved to the bagpipes they moved rooms and I didn’t hear them! but then new folk would start! over 15 years of beginner chanter! Maybe some noise-cancelling headphones to help it not distract you! good luck to you both

  2. Ow. Patience is a virtue. You obviously have it in spades.

    I hope your walls are soundproofed. Maybe he could practice outside? A farmer might pay him to practice in a field and scare away varmints.

  3. Ha, ha. I’m laughing with you. Hang in there, Phillip will improve! He’s clearly very excited. Buck up my friend!

  4. My daughter played Suzuki violin, starting at age 4. There is a book you might want to read. “A Suzuki Parent’s Diary or how I survived my first 10,000 Twinkles.” Hang in there, it will get better. 🙂

  5. I’ve been married to a musician for nearly 40 years. I’m thankful that he’s not only impassioned but that he’s good. When he learns a new tune I would guestimate he plays it about one hundred times before he finds the arrangement that he loves and suits his style. One day I realized that I hear every version, but only really listen to about every tenth playing. One day he asked if I liked a song one way or another between about ten playings. I knew then I had kind of skipped over listening. I told him to play it again both ways because I needed to hear it to clearly form my opinion. I hope your husband keeps at his music and that you find you can switch between hearing and listening.

    Think about your first knitting project. I know mine was very probably laughable. All these years later I might even think it was horrifying, but I was very proud and filled with accomplishment. When he plays, imagine a first-time knitter’s scarf unfurling, filled with holes and miscounted stitches. As it floats across your imagination try to have faith that one day it will become an intricate and lovable teddy bear with nary a missed stitch.

    I love your blog!

  6. Fine example of why I packed my violin away. The fam was fairly kind as I practiced but…I could tell, lol. It was precisely as your video showed! How can one jump from screeching to that smooth elegant sound without practice???

    You have my full sympathy…but so does Philip! Life’s rough, lol.

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