Long ago, on a visit with my parents to my favorite aunt and uncle on a Saturday night, I encountered my first musical instrument.
This was back in the mid 1950's, and their home was, at least to me, a palace. The living room was large and had gleaming polished oak floors. This, along with a fireplace, branded my soul with a vision of what a home should be.
I don't recall what my age was, but I was very young, perhaps 4 or 5 years of age. I was alone in the living room when I saw a fiddle. I learned later that my aunt, uncle, and their only child (a son) all played at least one instrument. One played guitar, another the mandolin, and the third was a fiddle player.
I remember just getting my little mitts on that fiddle and asking to be given the rubbin' stick. I didn't even know it was called a bow.
The adults of course laughed at me and took that fiddle away from me. I wasn't a stupid or careless child, knew to handle things of worth with care. It mattered not; my desire was quashed.
Some years later, my Mom acquired a used organ from another aunt. I remember trying to pick out a hymn or two with limited success. That didn't last long, either. The organ was sold to pay some outstanding debt.
Flash forward about 45 years. My wife and I decided to home school our son, a decision of which he was heartily in favor. One of the requirements was he had to have a fine art, and the choices were pretty limited. The local home school association conducted a choral singing group. Our son, with quite a bit of trepidation, was signed up. He did well, but his idea of fun isn't singing in front of a group of strangers.
The next year came with another fine art requirement. He was given a choice: either another year of choral singing or take up a musical instrument, the choices being piano or guitar. He leapt at the idea of learning guitar.
We found a local instructor. His name is Mike and he is a man of considerable talent and patience. Our son has been in his class for almost 2 years and, I have to say, the boy has skills.
On a recent foray into Richmond, Va with our oldest daughter's husband (who also plays and teaches guitar) he, my son, and myself invaded Guitar Center. My son initially declined playing, being intimidated by some of the licks being played by various customers. Finally he took up a guitar and started playing a riff from Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N' Roses. My son-in-law told my son "You might be shy, but you can play!" It was a nice ego boost coming from Kris, just what the doctor ordered.
Somewhere along the way it finally occurred to me that at this point in my life, the only thing holding me back from learning to play was me. I ponied up the coin to buy a used acoustic, a sweet sounding Sigma guitar patterned on the cool acoustics of C. F. Martin & Co.
I didn't know how to read music and still barely can muddle through deciphering sheet music. I went back to my initial plan, picking out some old standards by ear. My repertoire is slowly expanding.
I find that learning to play expands my appreciation of the work of other artists, giving me a fuller understanding of just how complex their work is.
I earn my living driving a big rig. It is an occupation where, when the chance occurs, a nap is a welcome respite. It helps keep me alert which also helps keep me safe, something which also helps to keep you safe. Nothing is quite as frustrating as having a chance to grab a nap and finding oneself unable to mentally disengage and slip into sleep. I can take out that used guitar, practice for 15 minutes, then lie down and slip into slumber as if I have not a single care in the world.
I also find having a couple guitar pick
s in my pocket is a good conversation starter. I was scrounging in my pocket for some change while in a fast food restaurant, and while digging through the pile of coins the cashier saw my picks. He asked if I played, and I smiled and told him I was a rookie, just learning a few things. It turns out he had just started learning, too. We had a nice little one minute exchange where it probably never would have happened without those picks in my pocket.
I find I'm a little old to be starting this musical odyssey. My hands are large, and have been called hams on more than one occasion. My fingers aren't nimble. My eyes have trouble deciphering the notes on sheet music. I recognize that it would all have been so much easier from a physical perspective had I started this project many decades ago.
It's been a long time coming, this leap from desire to fulfillment. It's a leap that I'm finding incredibly frustrating as well as satisfying in a way few other things have been. It allows me to be creative, even though that creation is more a simple recitation of someone else's creativity. It's working for me.
Son, thank you for helping me to take the leap long delayed. I thought I was giving you the gift of music and I have come to find it's a mutual giving between us.
Sometimes the gifts long delayed and denied are all the sweeter when they arrive.