Christmas, 1997. Every other gift had already been opened, and while you smiled politely when you saw the PlayStation with a brand-new copy of Final Fantasy VII, there was something missing. There was that one thing you’d wanted for years, but your parents never listened to your pleas. Mom wanted you to be “cool” and “normal,” but you knew that isn’t what Fate had planned. Dad wanted to prepare you for the family business by gifting you a new dog, but you always thought that his job as a taxidermist was a little creepy.
Ever since you went to that Olive Garden when you were 6 years old and heard that beautiful, angelic melody, you knew. It looked like a suitcase, and the man looked like he had been living out of that suitcase his whole life, but the sounds that poured forth from it were unlike anything on that new *NSYNC record.
Yes, you were smitten. So on that snowy Christmas day, after so many nights crying yourself to sleep, you couldn’t believe it. You didn’t believe it. But then you picked up that last present and felt the hard, uncomfortable frame and it reminded you of giving a hug to your Aunt Helga. It could only mean one thing: your journey toward becoming the best accordion player in the world had just begun.
Now, after so many years, you look back on that memory and wonder where that little boy went. Remember when Olive Garden was your favorite restaurant? Every night you used to walk right up to Ricardo, their accordion player, and ask – no, beg – that he take you on as an apprentice. You were so full of joy and promise back then. But people’s interest in the dynamic, complex – some might say sacred – music of the accordion has dried up. Every time you think about what you did with your accordion, the weight of your life’s greatest failure becomes just a little bit heavier. Yes, it was safely stored away in a temperature-controlled unit, but what’s the point if you’ve lost your passion?
It all changed one afternoon in June. You had just left Pizza Dog and were about to make your deliveries, but something stopped you in your tracks. It was a flyer, a little torn but still readable, still capable of love, just like you. It said, “June Is Accordion Awareness Month! Come On Down And See The Magnificent Ricky Perform The Works Of Lady Gaga!”
What was this feeling? It felt exciting, frightening, and a little uncomfortable. The Magnificent Ricky?
“No, it couldn’t be,” you said to yourself. “Ricardo died in that freak olive oil accident.”
But still, something gnawed at you. They never found his body, and before he died, he was always going on about Lady Gaga. The idea was crazy and you knew it, but you had to see for yourself. If that was really Ricardo, you had to see him. You had to show him that you haven’t given up your dreams.
Thank goodness you used StorBox to protect your accordion all these years. It was still in the same condition as when you left it. You picked it up, and were suddenly reminded of all those times you had to scrape together your rent by playing on street corners. And remember when you were picked up by that record label? You were even inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. How could you have ever left this life?
You went on down. The moment your eyes met, you both broke down. He looked not a day older than when you last saw him, which must have been due to olive oil’s skin-enhancing properties. You both looked down at your accordions. Ricardo gave a sly smile and said, “You saw my flyer?”
“Yes,” you responded tearfully. “I saw your flyer.”