Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Having been an enthusiastic player of tin whistles in my youth, I decided in 1971 to take up the flute. Learning the fingering was easy enough but the awful noises I made while trying for tone were torture for me and, as I feared, for my neighbours. After much effort I learned to play along with songs popular at the time. Convinced that I was finally getting somewhere with my playing I happened one day to run into my neighbour from across the hall. He was with a friend and introduced me to him as a so-so flute player.

My life suddenly changed when I was offered and accepted a position as Faculty Resident in a UMASS, Amherst dormitory. This entitled me to a smartly furnished apartment in the dorm with a balcony that overlooked the campus and the Hadley hills beyond. My “job” was to befriend and mentor students and to throw an occasional wine and cheese party for the residents. Instead of having to drive to work from Northampton, fair weather or foul, I could now simply walk to my office.

I soon met and became friends with many students among who were Larry and his beloved Debra. Larry was Jewish, Debra black. Hardly had I come to cherish their company when they announced they were going to get married and would I please play my flute at the wedding! The shocks kept coming. It would be a quiet wedding in the woods by a rippling stream with no family present and just a few student friends there as witnesses. The celebrant was the campus ombudsman, a notoriously fat and fanatical hippie who wore a giant bronze peace symbol slung around his neck. He officiated dressed in a tie dyed shirt, shorts and sandals. The vows were hastily spoken and then all eyes turned to me as I readied my flute and played, at Larry and Debra’s request, Elton John’s “Your Song” and a Jethro Tull version of a Bach classic.

Suddenly it was over. I’ve lost track of Larry and Debra now but I trust that they are living hippiely ever after.

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