My artistic, beautiful, exuberant mother informed myself and City Mouse that today is National Guitar Day. However accurate that is or not, she decided Country-City Mice needed to do something to celebrate.
Flashback to 1994:
The house on Wasuki street was empty. No more couches, dining room table, television, even my mom’s favorite painting of a little cottage in the Swiss mountainside no long hung in its regular spot. But I do remember sitting in the empty living room after watching my mom pull a large,oblong, cardboard box from an obscure closet shelf…the last thing in our house that had yet to be loaded into the moving truck. And for good reason, today was my 6th birthday as well as the day we would leave our Colorado home for the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.
I opened my birthday present. And my heart opened a chamber of love for the guitar on that day that I turned 6 years old that would last every day following!
I didn’t know how to play it of course but I didn’t let that stop me. At the KOA campground we stopped in for the night, I sat under a pine tree next to the walking trail, left out my cardboard box the guitar came in and I begun singing as I strummed open chords on a toy acoustic guitar that surely wasn’t in tune. But I sang my heart out. The words I sang I made up as I went. The topic of which I am unsure but the feeling I felt as passersby listened on, like an older couple with a grey miniture snauzer on it’s leash, was a feeling of refreshment, joy, freedom. I felt capable of marvelous things. AND I made a solid 35 cents in random small coins that passing fellow campers dropped in my cardboard box.
On to the wretched years of Junior High:
I was in 8th grade and I had a vision of my self. I even sketched it in ammeter cartoon style as a pixie-haired rock star with metallic pink pants and an electric guitar. My loving, guiding, supporting older sister City-Mouse handed down her classical acoustic guitar along with a few simple chords and picking patterns. I literally played that guitar until I winced at the slightest touch of my fingers, even shampooing my choppy short hair was painful. But soon my fingers grew callused and my eagerness to practice grew even more.
I tried songs by John Bon-Jovi, Allison Krauss, Jimmy Eat World..but no matter what I did I simply could NOT make my music sound the way theirs did on the radio. I would try and try and try until I was in tears. I finally gave up. I wouldn’t waste another second being something I was not. I was no Bon Jovi. I took what little knowledge I had of music and guitar and I quit. I quit trying to sound like them. I began writing my own songs.
Flashforward to 2007:
I was nineteen years old home for the summer from college and excited to join my mom and younger siblings for a Fourth of July trip to Cour de ‘Laine. We walked the docks near the lake, buzzing with vendors selling trinkets to face paint, balloons, even cars. My mom left us for a few minutes in a scurry back to where she had parked the mini van. I stood, stumped alongside my siblings as we waited. She came back with my large black guitar case. The spoils of my summer job, a $350 Alvarez eletrci-acoustic guitar. Named, Blaze, after the man who sold it to me at Music Villa in Bozeman, MT. I rolled my eyes as my mom pointed to an open spot on the sidewalk and nudged the guitar into my arms. So many people walking around, all anticaipating the firework show planned for that evening. Not as fearless as I had been at the KOA when I was six, I reluctantly began to play and sing, trying to avoid eye contact with any of the many strangers as they walked by, even stopped to listen. I played songs I had written as well as some covers I had finally mastered by taking guitar classes as a college Freshman. Before I knew it a boy my age with an african drum sat down next to me and hit rhythmically along with every song I played! I wasn’t even paying attention to the money accumulating in my guitar case. I wasn’t even AWARE my mother had laid it out to collect! This time there was more than .35 cents worth in coins you couldn’t use on the campsite laundromat. I blushed and kept on performing. Next time I looked down the case was empty. The money was gone. I still had an audience, among whom were my three younger siblings and my mom grinning as they ate hot fresh pizza from a street vendor down the block. I wasn’t upset to have unknowingly paid for dinner, but at least they could have brought me a slice!
Today, February 2016:
My 5 year old son just lost his first tooth. The tooth fairy left a large pile of coins (I’m sure a reward for his reluctant yet consistent care he took in practicing good oral hygiene) of which he decided to spend on a $1.50 Harmonica. He practiced all night with his uncle, an extremely talented guitarist who accompanied him in preparation for last week’s open mic night at the local coffee shop. As we watched him, I could remember myself at a similar age fearlessly playing music for strangers on an instrument I had only picked up the day before. I was so proud of him as I could see a look on his face that resembled a feeling of refreshment, joy, and freedom. He felt capable of marvelous things.