GuitAlong Girl

We're on our way home from a hike, and we make a stop at the music store.

"I need some polish," he explains, and while I'm sure he does, I also know perfectly well what happens whenever we "make a quick stop" at a music store.

As expected, he makes a beeline for the guitars (with a brief detour to the banjos), and I amble along slowly after, admiring the many instruments that I will never play.  Once upon a long lost time I played cello, but... long ago and far away, and all that.  I also did my time on the recorder, like all good primary school children do, and I even spent a year on the piano.

And, of course, there are the many, many times I've attempted to learn guitar.

My father played.  My father was a wonderful guitarist, to the point where he ruined me for all those high school boys who thought they could play.  And my father bought me a student guitar, and started teaching me to play when I was about twelve...

...and then my father died, when I was thirteen.

Needless to say, I did not learn to play the guitar from my father.

Other males tried to teach me, bless them, my husband most recent amongst them.  He's attempted to teach me at least twice, and more likely three times, displaying great patience each time.  And each time I've... not given up, precisely, because that implies a decision being made.  Petered out, more like.

And always, always, I have felt Incomplete for my lack of guitar playing.  I have a list of things that I believe I should be able to do, to be the woman I envision myself being; most of those things I can and do do, but tied for first place amongst the "Not Yet There" items is playing the guitar (tied, if you were curious, with speaking Spanish beyond the level of a particularly slow two-year-old).  That being said, it's been almost two years since the last time I attempted it.

I join him in the room with the guitars, where he is making a surprisingly robust sound come out of an incongruously petite guitar.

"Try this," he says, handing it to me.  "I think you'll like the feel of it."

And I do.  I do like the feel of this beautiful, beautiful instrument, resting so comfortably in my hands, so perfectly scaled for my own smaller size.  He points out the way the curve of the back amplifies and concentrates the vibration of the strings, the way the mahogany gives it a richer tone than the spruce.  And all I can do is clutch it, wanting so badly to make it sing, but being so utterly, utterly helpless to do so.

The salesman must recognize the look of desperation in my eyes, because he crouches down next to me.

"Would you like me to show you how to make a chord?"  His voice is gentle, understanding.  "I can teach you like I teach the little guys,"

"Yes please," I say.  "Teach me exactly like you teach the little guys."

So he shows me how to make "Spider Man" and "Tea Cup" (which rise up from the misty depths of my memory as E minor and A minor, respectively), and I joke that I am one chord away from being able to join a band.

But the dog is waiting in the car, and we must be on our way.  Nathan buys his polish, and we head home... but I cannot get the little guitar out of my head.

I start doing math.  I could buy the little guitar, it would only take about ten weeks of concentrated savings.  But then I correct my thinking- it's not the money I need for the purchase so much as the determination to justify it.  And so I say to myself,

"You can have the little guitar if you practice with the ones we already own, every day for ten weeks."

We begin that night, and Nathan is beside himself with glee.  This is his passion, and to share it with me animates him in a way that I rarely see.  I hope to make him proud.

I hope to make myself proud.

Practice Makes Perfect


  1. Nētē, Mesē, and HypatēMay 1, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    We want to drop an instrument on you from the sky. Careful of the rainy days ahead.

    1. I will, of course, always graciously accept whatever gifts the daughters of Apollo might see fit to shower upon me.