He was 12 going on 13 in the summer of ’68. The Little Drummer Boy had won the respect of all the older musicians he played with. Part of the boy’s talent was purely a gift from God, but much of it came from hard work and discipline. With his older brother shining as the lead singer and guitarist, the Little Drummer Boy worked hard to become the best he could be...even under duress. Like the time his big brother locked him in the basement with only his drums and the new Iron Butterfly album playing “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", over and over again. Three hours later, the door was unlocked and the Little Drummer Boy was rocking out the infamous 7-minute drum solo in perfect sync with the record.
Everything seemed to be going well enough for the single Mom and her musical sons. So when the Little Drummer Boy asked if he could replace his old drums with a ‘mod’ set, she couldn’t refuse. His choice was easy: a 1968 seven-piece Psychedelic Red Ludwig drum set with double kicks, a chrome snare and matching throne.
'The Click' - Borger’s answer to The Partridge Family - kept right on rocking until Jackie turned 20 and left home to spread his musical wings, and Dickie turned 15 and wanted to play football more than music. Working a couple of low-paying jobs, Mom tried to make ends meet...but they seldom ever did. Dickie, now a sophomore in high school, came home from football practice one afternoon to find his Mother in tears. She pleaded with him to understand that she had not meant to get so far behind on the monthly loan payments for his drums. Although they were nearly paid off, there was no money to make-up for the missed payments. It broke her heart to tell her son that the music store would be coming by to repossess his beloved drum set. Dickie was devastated. To him, they weren’t just drums;they were an integral part of his identity. They were his security…the one place he could go to chase away all the doubt and fear of never having quite enough. He ran downstairs for one last look at his beautiful drums, and in a rare surge of anger at the unfairness of life – he grabbed his chrome snare - and hid it from the repo man. (I love that part of the story!)
Flash forward 40 years to January, 2011. Dickie is once again in the market for a new set of drums. He has drums - a nice set of Sonors given to him by Jackie years ago that he shared with his sons, and a cheap electronic set - just for fun. For several weeks he haggled with a dealer over the price of a Gretsch drum set, never receiving much encouragement from me. Then one day on a whim, he googled Ludwig Red Psychedelic and...WALA! Angels began playing their harps, the clouds parted and sunlight streamed down upon an image which bore the exact replica of his old drum set - vintage 1968. Seeing the look of unadulterated awe on his face, my eyes filled up with tears. I told him it was a ‘sign’ - how could he not buy those drums? But to my surprise he quickly retreated, saying the drums were too expensive and that he would rather buy a new set at a cheaper price.
Well…I may not know much, but I do know this man. And I knew it wasn’t really about the fact that these drums were too expensive for the 55 year old man, but more about the painful memories of a Little Drummer Boy that had paid too high a price so many years ago. All the old insecurities and sad memories flooded to the surface. How could he justify spending so much money on the same drums that were taken away from him at a time when money was scarce and life was so unkind?
Of course I did the only thing I could - I ordered the drums without telling him. I knew that if they were sitting right in front of him, he would never let them go again. The drums were supposed to be delivered by 7 p.m. yesterday evening. By the time the doorbell rang at 7:15, I had chewed off three of my fake fingernails. Dickie opened the door, took a look at the two big boxes and said, “Robin, Ohhh, Robin…what have you done?” I spit out another fingernail and said, “I, uhh... wanted you to have some new drums. They’re uhh, black - but they were on sale – uhh, really cheap.” I stood off to the side, chewing through two more fake nails as he tore into the boxes.
I don’t know exactly how I expected him to react, but as he lifted a drum out of the box and got his first glimpse of Psychedelic Red...everything about him went instantly still. Then he very deliberately and oh so carefully returned the drum to the box, slowly lowered himself to the floor, laid down on his back and quietly folded his hands over his chest. “OH MY GOSH” I squealed! “Please tell me you are NOT having a heart attack!!” He slowly shook his head from side to side, and that is when I noticed the tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes and into his ears. I stretched out on the carpet beside him, gently put my head on his shoulder and placed my hand over his steadily beating heart. “You’re okay?” I asked again. “Oh…I am so okay” he said softly. “I just need a little time.” As I lay there beside him on the floor with my hand over his wonderful heart, I thanked God for this moment…knowing that it would indeed take a little time to fill up all those empty places hidden away inside the Little Drummer Boy for the past 40 years.
Yes, it was just that sappy. Just that sweet and poignant. And yes, the drums were expensive, but in truth - all they really cost me were a set of fake fingernails. Because the healing and the happiness that came with those drums…is truly priceless. Life is short. Life is hard. But sometimes if we’re lucky, we get the chance to go back and right the wrongs suffered by the ones we love.
Don’t you just love a happy ending?