Songs From the Sea

While playing cards with the other kids, I listened to the strings and voices coming from upstairs. I spent every summer with the same group of families on our sailboats. Each family would sail over to Oyster Bay Cove every Labor Day and Memorial Day like clockwork. We would spend the few short days together at our leisure finding the turtles by the shore and swimming off the bow of the boat with the moon-jellies that would inhabit the waters we swam in. Later at night the kids gathered downstairs in the cabin while the adults indulged in wine and cheese on deck. There was a multitude of guitars, voices, a banjo and harmonica heard from above.

I was only six years old when I began to hear the music on the boat. As the years past, I would return to school every fall and music became more relevant in my everyday life. By my 10th birthday, I had picked up a violin, played piano on the weekends and sang in the shower more often than my family would have liked. Yet I never felt that it was my place to play on the boat. My sister and I began to sing along to the guitars brought by the two boys who had become our summer companions.

However, my joyous summers did not translate to my life on shore. School suddenly became a dark forest with no escape. I was sick more often than not and homework was impossible. I yearned for the day when I could sit and listen to the beautiful melodies that were created by my friends. Struggles persisted through middle school until anxiety was officially diagnosed. What seemed like such a simple explanation to my problems was not going to be fixed overnight. My first courageous public appearance was returning to the choir at church. Music was the only thing that continued to keep me afloat.

My sophomore year in high school my family decided it was time for a fresh start and moved a short 2 ½ hours closer to the water. We continued to sail every summer even as some of the older kids slowly began to disappear into their new adult lives. I began to sit with the adults on deck and sing along to the shanties and tales I had listened to for years. We saw some of our friends that we sat next to perform at a national folk festival earlier that summer. I hesitantly brought along my guitar and pick one night on the boat. I sang along until the other musicians found out that I was hiding my instrument. I followed along that night watching the experienced clan strum away effortlessly as I timidly matched my fingers to theirs. I heard stories of the musicians’ mistakes during their performances and how they overcame personal struggles in life through music. I returned to my school with new found confidence and strength.

Today I am able to perform and share my music with others who can benefit from it’s presence. I get excited now when I walk through school with a ukulele on my shoulder and kids as me to play them a tune. Even though my place of living has moved, my home on the water has never changed. When I am reminded of the battles I fought, I sing to myself an old shanty song, “I would be happy spending my days on the river that flows both ways.”





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