Opa’s Tuning Fork

My grandfather’s tuning fork magically appeared on my desk last November. I’m not sure where it was, or why it suddenly appeared in my desk, but this is what the tuning fork does. It appears in my life and then disappears again. I’ve never paid much attention to its peregrinations, but now, I wonder if I should have…

In 1991, just as I was finishing my undergraduate degree in flute performance at the University of Toronto, my grandmother packed up her late husband’s music books and sent them to me. Several weeks later, two taped up boxes addressed to me – the only grandchild to have taken up Opa’s musical legacy – arrived on my parents’ doorstep in small town central Alberta. It took another twenty years before I was ready to bring those books to my own home, and in the meantime, they’d travelled with my parents to Ottawa. In 2012, while visiting my parents, we picked them up and they began a further trek east, finally arriving in St. John’s, where they now stand sentinel in our music/guest/bike room.

Opa’s tuning fork, on top of two of his symphony scores. Photo credit: Sonja Boon

Taped to the inside of one of those boxes was a tuning fork. I almost missed it the first time I looked. But there it was. My mom told me that she and her siblings would play with the forks. They’d knock them against their knees and then hold them against their teeth, feeling the zing as A=440 vibrated in the air. And so, when I found the fork way back in 1991, I started playing, too. I felt that tingle on my teeth, against my forehead, on my elbow. I held it against books, on the table, a coffee mug, a pot, the A ringing around the house.

But as more technological devices appeared on the market – electronic tuners and metronomes of different sizes and capacities – the tuning fork fell by the wayside. And so it started appearing and disappearing, appearing and disappearing.

Lately, as my flute has taken more of a backseat to the realities of a busy academic and family life, the tuning fork disappeared for longer and longer periods. Over time, I’ve mostly forgotten about it.

But suddenly, just as I submitted What the Oceans Remember to Wilfrid Laurier University Press for review, it came back. There it was, on my desk, as though it had never not been there. Opa’s tuning fork, now likely over sixty years old, right next to my computer.

Coincidence? Or my grandfather’s presence, reminding me that the music is still in me; that it will always be there for me, always part of my story.

I picked it up, feeling its weight in my hand. Following my mother, I struck it against the desk and brought it up to my mouth. A tingle and a ring.

And then.




(c) Sonja Boon, 2019.

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