The Family That Plays Together Stays Together

This post is part 2 of 11 in the series, “Marvelous Midwest,” about discovering my extended family in Indiana and “ukeing” it up in Missouri. All in one very eventful trip…

My Indiana cousin Noelle and I email each other and on rare occasions, talk on the phone. She wishes I would learn to text because her hip and busy musical family have totally embraced that crazy-thumb way of staying in touch.

I’ve studied her pictures and this former ballerina and present-day violinist extraordinaire is positively gorgeous. I hear that Noelle is kind and generous.

And I hear right.

She and her husband Dan and their son Anthony pull up to our hotel in their CHOPSAVER van and we hug, Noelle and I. Then back up and look at each other. Really look at each other. Is this a dream? Then we embrace each other again. And again. “You’re so tall!!!” I sputter. “You’re beautiful” she responds. And so it goes.

We soon discover the remarkable array of “little things” that we both do. She notices first… That we dip our salad greenery into the side of dressing rather than dump the goo on top. That we both like the same style of sandal and are wearing them when we meet for the first time. We spin around in circles when we get flummoxed or forget “why I came into this room…” We both know the fear that something, something bad, could happen to a beloved parent, that he or she will never come home again. And we both know the relief, the kind of “ahhhhhh” you feel in your bones when you hear their familiar footsteps and the key turning in the front door and there they are and everything is okay.

Our mothers were both born the same year, same month and within a week of each other.

Violinist on the left, ukulele player on the right.

Noelle loves the wild leopard stick-ons that adorn my toenails so I buy her “zebra stripes” at a Walgreens near her house. We both do “core” exercises to stay in shape. She shows me her “boot camp” ballet scrunchy sit-up and I demonstrate my off-kilter Turkish-Get Up. We revel in the joy of hanging out with someone who actually gets excited about this stuff.



Then there is the music. We quickly discover an easy simpatico. A shared language and deep respect for each other’s work. It is as if we have been playing together our whole lives. Noelle has toured the world playing her violin and works all the time doing gigs at the Indianapolis Center for The Performance Arts when the big-name artists come  through, with the symphony, for parties, teas. You name it. She has 25 violin students filing in and out of the house for lessons every week. Then she helps her husband Dan with their thriving family business, ChopSaver, which is a natural lip balm for people who happen to have lips. (Speaking of…my lips are so big, they arrive two days before I do. rim shot).

The point is, I’m not sure when Noelle sleeps.

We both play by ear too and with no hesitation and precious little rehearsal, launch into a duet of the Cole Porter song, “True Love.” Violin and ukulele. There she is, sitting in front of her treasured photographs that hang on the wall of her music room. Her father, her mother, brothers and sisters, famed musicians and conductors she has worked with over the years. This is a hallowed place. You are invited into the music room too. My husband directed and videotaped our duet on my iPhone and uploaded it to YouTube.

My cousin Noelle is beautiful inside and out. And if I lived in Indianapolis, where live music is flourishing, she and I would be doing gigs together until cows fly.

Stay tuned for more…



  1. sherry k
    | Reply

    i am just now and already enjoying this marvelous midwest adventure!! on to part 3…

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