Ten years ago, I had my last music lesson. "Playing the cello is not like riding a bike," my instructor warned that day. "You do forget."

Maestro, how right you were.

Last July, with the support of friends and family, I redeemed my cello from behind my winter coat and sat down to initiate my musical rebirth.

The bow refused to glide over the strings. Finger positions, even the most elementary, were either lost entirely or discordant.

Was this the same girl who, at 10, had been the apple of her parents' eye, the cellist of the family? The same high school senior who played with the "adult" orchestra, an honor that transformed her from difficult teen-ager to sensitive artist?

College marked the beginning of my fall. Social commitments and career pursuits took precedence over practice, and "Nelly" went the way of home-cooked meals. She became an embarrassment. When friends asked about the bulky object propped in the corner of my efficiency, I'd fluster and explain, "I used to play the cello," adding (to myself), and I used to be good.

Months crescendoed into years. Nelly's presence had become a reproach.

Even during those years I felt the cello was an inseparable part of my personality. Perhaps that's why it took so long to go back to it: I was afraid that part of the Old Me was gone forever. Or maybe I just got tired of hearing, "What a shame you gave it up," and "I'd love to hear you play some time."

I'm not the same musician I was 10 years ago, although I get better each time I sit down to play. I've joined a group of other musicians whose experiences are similar. We struggle with our chamber music, but we have fun.

As adults we know that practice doesn't necessarily mean perfection.