For those of you who missed last week’s column, I extend to you my apologies. You may want to borrow a copy from your neighbor or dig yours out of the recycling bin before you read on, because as Paul Harvey would have said, this is the rest of the story.
Thirty years ago when I turned sixteen, the love of my life bought me a guitar when all I had was a dream that I could play it. With nary a lesson and no real musical background, he went out on a limb to give me a deeply meaningful gift that has become an irreplaceable treasure to me. After excitedly enjoying my surprise, I began cobbling together information about basic guitar playing long before the worldwide web made access to such things quick and easy. I tortured friends and family alike with bad chords and squeaky notes for months. I played and practiced and crooned for hours and progress was painfully slow. But I was driven by some internal purpose that pushed me past my sore and calloused fingertips and my unpainted manly fingernails. I had music locked inside of me and this guitar was the key to letting it all out.
I not only wanted to play so that I could enjoy the experience of covering other people’s music. I wanted to write my own songs. These songs were already composed in my mind, but they needed a tool to bring them to life. This was my real dream: to be a song writer. And write I did. Hundreds of mediocre pieces with a decent tune mixed in now and then for good measure. This guitar became my therapy, my lifeline. I played and strummed and chorded and scribbled my heart out onto reams of paper that still clutter the nooks and crannies of my house.
But as with so many loves and passions, time took its toll. The demands of motherhood and work began to crowd out the time I spent writing and playing. The changing of the seasons and the years of use also took a toll on the guitar itself. She buzzed like a bee when I played. She barely stayed in tune. I barely picked her up in fact. But a few weeks ago, I suddenly felt an urge to play and it didn’t take long to determine that Old Betsy needed a tune up.
So last week I loaded her up in her duct-taped clapboard case, and drove her to the little shop where some string-loving folks were gracious enough to give my prized possession a once over. The good news was that there was still some life to be found in the old girl. The bad news was, it would cost much more than she was truly worth to sign the new lease on that life and give her a hope and a future. It was at this precise moment that I was confronted with the true depths of my sentimental attachment to this common object of insignificant intrinsic value. “The sensible thing to do would be to buy a completely new guitar. For half of the cost that it would require to restore her to tip top condition, you could have a brand new model, with a case, of comparable value that would far outlast your mortal years.” These words sounded like betrayal to me and my heart sank and a lump caught in my throat. Lord have mercy, I was going to burst into silly childish tears in front of these kind people who were merely giving me an objective appraisal of the situation.
That was the moment when I discovered something new about myself. I discovered that I am indeed a sentimental old fool and I love my guitar more than logic or common sense dictates. I don’t love it because it is a priceless antique or a vintage collectible. I love it because it represents the promise of an uncertain future entrusted to me by someone who believed in me. It turns out that logic and good common sense simply can’t put a price tag on love.