We are still who we ever were in so many ways, and yet we are changed by life.
I bought a guitar last Saturday. I went to buy new strings for my old guitar, hoping to decide if I could, or would, play it, or if it needed to be passed on.
I love my old guitar. I’d sold the hammer dulcimer, donated the auto harp, but could not part with the guitar, bought in a little guitar shop on my first solo trip to Mexico City when I was 16. It represents and holds in its golden wood many memories and many parts of me.
Mike took me to town and followed me as I walked into the music store, guitar case in hand. He laughed and said “that is an old hippie guitar case if I’ve ever seen one.” And indeed it is, it is more hippie than I ever was. It has stickers from my college days in Washington DC when I marched in the Vietnam era anti-war marches and big 60s flower stickers, the same ones Mike said where on his VW van. They went well with the flowers I embroidered on my jeans.
As I placed my beloved guitar on the counter, the woman behind the counter pointed to the bridge as her husband picked it up. She noticed what I hadn’t, the bridge was detaching from the guitar. Sigh. “How much to fix it?” I asked. “And is it worth it?”
Without going into the sad details, there were a few more signs of its age and neglect from not being played for decades. And no, probably not worth it, though it was doable. If I could, I’d fix it myself, it still has a beautiful body and good sound, but it needs new hardware and the cost was more than the set of strings I’d planned on buying.
The man said “We have a used classical guitar for $99”. I picked it up. It felt as good as my beloved one, I bought it.
That was heartbreaking. He kindly suggested I hang the old one on the wall. Not going to happen, but it needs an honorable burial.
At home my hand, fingers and brain could not, would not, make music. My fingers hurt, my neck, already a cause of migraines, froze up. Having discovered I threw out all my guitar music not long ago, song sheets and all, (more heart-break) I’d look at chords on the Internet and not remember them 30 seconds later. Frustrated, angry at my aging body and mind, feeling foolish at being such a spend thrift, I just wanted to return the guitar.
Then something happened. After several hours of painful determination there was a shift and it happened….I started strumming and picking and smoothly moving from G chord to C and D. I was playing the guitar. I was making music. Mind you, I was never more than a beginner, and I have no expectations beyond that……but deep in my core the feelings of playing Girl Scout songs around a campfire and sixties folk songs came welling up. It is a feeling of coming home to a part myself lost through life’s experiences and challenges.
Now if only I had my music. And no, the Internet, though loaded with songs with guitar chords, is not the same. Though I find here and there songs I remember, they aren’t always the same versions I knew.
So I’ll be strumming my chords, making up songs, maybe playing a few verses of “Leaving on a jet plane” or “Where have all the flowers gone”, but there won’t be any public playing for this old hippie. Mike likes hearing me play. The guitar is soothing. A good friend got a kick out of Happy Birthday over the phone with my male vocal cohort. Abby, half deaf, sleeps by my side through my musical experiments. I’ll be as frustrated now as “back then” at my limits. But it still feels right. It feels like an essential part of me.
For now I’ll keep the guitar. It fits in my old case. Maybe I’ll find someone to fix my beloved one.
I bet I can still ride a bicycle too.
Is there a lost part of you waiting to be found?