Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sing a Song of Sexpence

A frolicsome group of friends was gathered for its weekly Friday evening social last night. During dinner, a husband returned from a ten day business trip to his open-armed wife at the party. With much hoopla and jokes around “could the check get here any quicker?!”, we sent them home to what was predicted to be a wonderfully intimate reunion.

“Ten days, after all…” the heads all nodded together.

Except for two of us who looked at each other, having to draw much deeper within ourselves to find any sympathy around that time frame: ten days being just another ten more days in a long drought.

After nearly 20 years shut up in its case, the time has come—as part of my general over-hauling—to take my guitar to the repair shop. It is an instrument of beauty and graceful sound, purchased nearly 40 years ago with all the hard-earned money of a summer between college, and deserves fine-tuning.

The odd man in a dark shop, over-flowing with challenged guitars needing his careful attention, surmised that a few hours of adjustments to the bridge, saddle, neck and frets might regenerate the action passably. Additionally, he promised the clarity of sound would be worth an entire neck replacement should that be needed. I left my treasure with him, feeling completely illuminated by his confidence and reassurance that the brightness of the action could be restored.

Music in my family has always been important, but it was my sisters who had the perfect pitch, blending their voices while washing the dishes or hiking in the woods. I took up the guitar in sixth grade as a class project and was invited, if I wanted to sing, to do so in the next room or, preferably, way beyond (we were not always polite with each other and even worse about my father's accordion practice). Somebody else needed to tune the thing for years.

But without the expectation and pressure to be good at it, I continued to play in the next room, and after awhile, me and my guitar were welcomed on the camping trips. For a lark and a tease, one day I put a sister’s poems to melody, then soon began writing songs of my own. I experimented with school talent shows and eventually, by college, was playing regularly in public, solo, duo or with an occasional band.

I never had the fortune and talent to mount the stage at Wembley Stadium. It was surprise enough to play for a few hundred now and then. I did learn that very little is sweeter than being fully embraced by your own voice blending with others reflected back by a good sound system. And in all the years of playing so many notes, actually a verse and a half was recorded that might qualify as album quality (if they were still being made).

So it was easy to allow marriage and children to change my priorities and pack the instrument away. For these many years since, my guitar has rarely seen daylight, much less a spotlight, but has occasionally accompanied a tired little one to sleep.

What a joy unfolds when you discover that some things set aside remain with you always. Callouses can be rebuilt, the fingers thought too stiff can relearn their nimble movements. My mother, even deep in her world of Alzheimer’s, not recognizing anyone, could remember every word of every song I played for her last month.

All this week, I strengthened those lost callouses on the adequate but unfamiliar electric guitar, and stopped by my old home to sing out tunes on my piano in the empty evenings while my family has been away. I have passed the time, breathing heavily in anticipation like a young man looking forward to his third date with a new love.

The guitar is sadly not repaired in time for me to take it on my trips. But I am learning that patience is so much more than just a virtue. Ten days go by, then 10 more, then 10 weeks more, and as much as we want to immerse ourselves in the hope for the pleasure of the reward, impatience only builds frustration and anxiety.

My fingers itch. My voice resonates modestly without accompaniment. My heart throbs with the anticipation of new songs. The guitar will be repaired eventually. It is worth the investment. There will still be other trips for me to bring it along and sing a few songs for family and friends on the edge of a cliff at sunset.

I will love again.

Please share with your friends


Anonymous said...

My dad actually played a guitar so much that it wore through the wood. No matter what happened, I always cherished that he used to play and sing us to sleep.

Music soothes a little place in us all.

Anonymous said...

Kip great to hear you are getting back to music. Yes you will love again. I never thought I would, but ended up truly finding my soulmate.


julochka said...

glad to hear that about the ability to play the guitar still being there. i'm hopeful my russian still lurks somewhere in the depths of my mind, despite my having not used it in far too long. :-) enjoy the music!!! it's definitely got healing qualities.

TheElementary said...

It's hopefully just the beginning for you- music is soothing and works a magic of its own. I love the back story about your discovery of the guitar.
"What a joy unfolds when you discover that some things set aside remain with you always." You can't possibly forget something that meant so much to you!

verveteach said...

I get it: strumming your guitar - reawakening your passion. Music has been both symbolic of and an outlet for your gentle loving strokes. You’ve had to keep that shut away for too long. I hear the theme now permeating your work. I’ll keep listening.