Yossi drummed since he was a toddler. He drummed on his highchair and in his carseat. He banged out a rhythm with forks and spoons and blocks. And if he couldn’t get his hands on a “stick,” he drummed by pushing his lips against each other. Dum dum da dum.
When Yossi was seven years old, Nachman saw an ad in the Recycler for a Pearl drum set. He took Yossi and his friend to see it. At least, that’s what I understood: They were going to see it because it was a professional drum set. They did go to see it. Then Nachman paid for it and brought it home.
Home, at that time, was a third floor apartment. It took a number of trips on the elevator, an excited Yossi, and an even more excited Nachman carrying in piece after piece after piece. The drum set was one of those really big ones—what they call a complete set. The largest part was big enough for a child to sit inside. The pieces were fire-truck red, trimmed with silver. Shiny. With pedals and a collection of huge cymbals.
When it was finally set up in the living room, Yossi took the sticks in his hand and let loose. A minute passed, maybe two, before the knock on the door. We made Yossi open it, so he could sweet-talk his way through what we knew was coming.
Yossi opened the door and before our downstairs neighbor could say a word, he said, “What drums?”
Our neighbor laughed. Then he asked if he could see the drums. Oohs and aahs. And Yossi’s offer that the neighbor’s sons, and the neighbor himself, could come up and bang away anytime they felt like it. And then, Yossi’s solemn word that he would not play past 10:00 p.m.
Yossi drummed often. Sometimes he drummed to the music of a CD player. Sometimes, when he really felt like drumming to a song, he’d ask me to play something on the piano. I’m not much good on the piano, but I’d play and Yossi would play louder, much louder, so it was the drums that were heard rather than my mess of music. Sometimes he’d get a friend to accompany him on bass. And then there were times when he played on his own to a tune only he could hear.
This year is ten years since Yossi died. My grandsons have hit the drums from time to time, but, for the most part, they can take it or leave it. Mostly, they find other uses for the sticks, which means I have to remember to hide them before they come. Also, most of the time when they are in our house it’s Shabbos or Yom Tov. My granddaughters like to use the drums as a play-space. I find little Barbie purses and shoes in the crevices and hanging off the silver screws.
One of my friends looked around my living room and said, “The room would look so much better if you got rid of the drums.”
“No,” I said. Furious. “The drums are Yossi. They stay.”
The drums are not Yossi. Even Yossi’s body is not Yossi.
Still it took me time—oh, alright, so it took me ten years—to be ready to let them go.
Once, at the end of a lovely visit, as I buckled my young grandson into the car for the ride to the airport because he was headed back home—overseas—he said to me, “I feel a little like I want to cry.” But I knew that when he got onto the airplane and opened his backpack full of treats and activities, and when he got back into his comfy bedroom and into his routine of school and piano lessons and football… well, he’d be where he belonged and he’d be just fine.
My husband will carry out the drums. Someone else will use them now. They’re less shiny than they were when we got them, more than twenty-five years ago. I feel a little like I want to cry…
I think an elegant little table with a lamp and two armchairs would look nice in that corner of the living room.