Memories of Girls and a Guitar
This is a short story written for a recent creative writing class. This assignment involved writing about an item and the memories that went with it.
I am looking for my cellphone, having already
slid my hands between sofa cushions, examined the pockets of at least three
jackets and looked under every piece of furniture in the house. Alas, no
cellphone but I did find something else that immediately sent me reeling back
through the years: a guitar pick.
At the assurances of being taught by my already accomplished best friend, I asked for a guitar for Christmas at the age of fourteen. I was cursed with being an unbelievably shy and skinny geek brimming with nerdiness that destroyed all chances I had with women. Add to that being mired in the gray bog of middle classdom and I could not even buy my way into the hearts of ladies. I saw this instrument as a shooting star that I could use to rocket my popularity with the opposite sex to new heights.
I almost immediately regretted the decision when a guitar was all I received that Christmas (along with some token candy and fruit). I stood there holding this beautifully crafted Yamaha guitar with a western style pick guard and realized that my only Christmas gift was totally useless to me—I couldn’t play it even if I wanted to. I looked over longingly at my sister’s Christmas stash and realized that mine paled in terms of quantity. I was sick with the realization of what I had done.
Fortunately, the friend made good on his assurances and slowly but surely I began to progress as a guitar player. Holding the pick, my mind wandered back through the many cluttered filing cabinets in my memory to find scenes of having memorized and being able to pick “Stairway to Heaven” all the way through without stopping--or realizing that my mother’s spectacular singing voice had slipped into my gene pool but in a much more watered down, Neil Young kind of way. I could carry a tune but I sometimes needed the proverbial bucket. I could remember being overjoyed that I had mastered the technique of producing vibrato with my voice as well as learning how to blend a pleasing harmony in with a melody.
Songs from The Eagles, Cat Stevens, Crosby Stills and Nash, Elton John, and more began to find their way into my repertoire and I found my confidence slowly building, not only in my playing but in my singing as well. I began to find great joy in having my friend over or going to his house to have a “jam session” and we realized that together, we could put together an amazing harmony.
Time moved forward and I was transported to college when I had at least four years of playing under my belt. In college, where I had grown out of some of my earlier barriers to dating, I found myself on dates where occasionally the topic would turn to music. Some of my dates were actually impressed when I informed them that I was able to sing and play a guitar. I had a girl or two that forced the issue and the next time we went out, I would bring along the guitar, hopeful of scoring major points.
In my first attempts, the results were mixed as I chose to play things that I was comfortable picking and/or singing. Cat Steven’s “Moonshadow” or “Longer Boats” or one of my favorite bluegrass ditties did little to win the heart of a fair maiden and I realized that almost all of my collection of playable songs would not appeal to a woman that might want to be wooed. I came to the conclusion that I needed to write something and it needed to be incredibly romantic.
The memories at this point led me to a file cabinet in my home office where I was able to extract paper that contained the words and chording from some of these songs and a smile spread across my face – part embarrassment that I could write something so sappy and part satisfaction that I had a girl or two swoon at their performance.
Sadly, my memories took me to my post-college years, when the friend and I moved to different parts of the country and this wonderful conglomeration of wood and metal that had brought me so much joy was quietly inserted into my cheap guitar case and slid under the bed. Beyond not having someone to play with, to this day I don’t know why I stopped playing.
Besides the newfound pick and the extracted music sheets, I still have the guitar and have actually done a reunion concert or two with my friend who basically hung up his guitar as well. Fortunately for both of us, his only son decided it was something he wanted to do and ended up being better than either one of us. The youngest of my three children ended up playing the upright bass which perhaps means that in some twisted sort of way, I passed along my love of plucking strings.
Gazing again at the pick and finding myself back in the present, I felt a strange longing for the day when I could still remember how to play “Stairway to Heaven” or make a girl swoon. Maybe it’s not too late…