My Scrambled Nest

An Almost-Empty Nest Journey of "Letting Go" With Laughter and Love, By Cathy Free

It must be my daughter’s year for strings. Not shoelace strings or apron strings or puppet strings, but B strings and G strings — the kind attached to a musical instrument.

First, when Lily turned 18 on New Year’s Eve, her boyfriend gifted her with a beautiful acoustic guitar. Already, she’s playing it like a young Judy Collins, accompanying some of her favorite bands on YouTube, singing and strumming like a pro. When I asked her if she wanted lessons, my daughter quickly said no.

“It’s like playing the cello, only without the bow and you hold it differently,” she said. “No lessons for me. I’ll teach myself.”

Then about a week after Lily’s birthday, the doorbell rang one night and her second stringed surprise arrived. Her friend, Jessica, stepped inside the doorway and held out a mint-condition cello.

“Happy late birthday — my mom and I want you to have this,” she told Lily. “We bought it when I was in the sixth grade and I only played it for one year. Since then, it’s just been sitting in our basement instead of being played and appreciated. It deserves someone like you.”

Lily and I stood for a moment in stunned silence. I’d given my son a double bass as a high school graduation gift, and now I was saving up to buy Lily a cello this spring to replace the one we’d been renting from her high school. But the instrument Jessica was offering wasn’t a factory-built, “standard issue” cello for students. It was the real deal, crafted by hand from maple wood and lustrously varnished. It shined under our dining room chandelier like the well-polished fender of a ’56 Chevy.

“Wow! Are you sure?” I asked Jessica. “We’d be happy to pay you something for it. Seriously.”

Jessica vigorously shook her head no. “My mom has heard Lily play and she insists that she have it. She won’t accept payment and that’s that.”

The cello was Lily’s, she said, no strings attached.


“Because it sat unused for more than six years, the strings dried out,” said Jessica with a smile. “So you’ll have to buy new ones. Otherwise, it’s perfect.”

Lily and I both gave her a hug and wiped away happy tears. “We’ll always remember this moment,” I told Jessica. “It’s the most wonderful present ever.”

“I can’t wait to play it,” said Lily. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

After Jessica left, Lily wondered what she could do to thank her and her mother for such a generous gift. “How can I possibly repay them?” she asked.

“How about if you bake them something and write a nice ‘thank you’ card?” I suggested.

So that’s what she did. That night, Lily whipped up a batch of blueberry muffins and made two dozen little “thank you” flags with musical notes to stick in each one. The next day, she took them over to Jessica’s house and gave her mother a hug.

At a time of ugliness and uncertainty, how wonderful to see an act of pure selflessness and joy — a reminder that life is still full of kind and gracious people.

It’s said that these things happen in threes. At any moment, I’m half-expecting a harp to show up. 😉♥️🎶







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