Harold Rees is the father of my longtime friend and animation colleague Jerry Rees. Over the past 35 years, I have seen Mr. Rees at Jerry's house on many occasions. I've also seen many of his handmade instruments - violins, violas, banjos, and ukuleles. After one such visit to Jerry's with my wife Donna, she commented on the incredible craftsmanship in Mr Rees' work. I confessed to her that I had always wanted to buy one of his ukuleles but was afraid to ask.
So guess what I got the following Christmas, 2013? Donna had discreetly contacted Jerry's wife Rebecca and some kind of deal was made. I was completely floored, and proudly displayed the ukulele in our living room, sharing the story with anyone who would comment on it - and they would.
Cut to fall of 2016. Donna had passed away two years prior and I was about to relocate from New Jersey back to California. I shed more than half of my possessions - including the animation desk I had owned for 33 years - to fit into a 27 foot long U-Haul. Once unloaded in California, it took months to unpack everything. As the number of boxes dwindled, I realized that my Rees ukulele was missing (insert anxiety spike here).
My mind raced with possible scenarios. Did I leave it in a motel? Did I mistakenly put it in a Goodwill box? Or did I - GASP - mistakenly put it in a box to throw away? At moving time, boxes were flying out of the house in all directions.
I looked through the remaining packed boxes. No ukulele. I looked again and again. No ukulele. It made me nauseous to think I had managed to lose this special handmade gift from my late wife on our last Christmas together. I confessed to Jerry and Rebecca. They did not tell Mr Rees about it.
For 2 1/2 years I carried guilt over the loss of that special uke. Then on March 4, 2019, I was retrieving something in what was the last unpacked box from the move. To get to the thing I was looking for I had to remove a massive wad of bubble wrap packed with it for protection. Don't you know, this massive wad of bubble wrap had a most welcome surprise inside.
A wave of emotion hit me. My knees buckled. I laughed that crazy laugh like when you've had a near death experience. Close to tears, I took the above picture and texted Jerry and Rebecca. What a freaking relief!
Moral of this story - keep your friends close and your ukuleles closer!