This Christmastime, I gave away the first guitar I ever tried to play as a donation to a church down the street. I had to clean and re-string the instrument first though. The strings were over 15 years old!
Cleaning a dusty instrument is an intimate process to me, especially if you own it. It’s like you’re discovering a whole new identity hidden under the dust and crap that has accumulated. I began by removing the strings and saw that it was clearly time for these strings to go. As I cleaned and polished the wood I remembered the first few times I picked it up to try tuning it or playing a little tune that I wanted to know. I remember my fingers making their way clumsily from fret to fret struggling to find a G or a C or even the melody to “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. This guitar deserved better treatment for the lack of talent that had painstakingly played it many years ago.
As I diligently tied each nylon string onto the guitar, I thought about the potential that this guitar may have for someone else. There could be joy, anger, sadness, love, and creativity that someone else might pour into the very strings that I am laying in. When I had finished placing all six strings I began tuning it correctly for the first time in years. New strings always have a process to adjust and get comfortable onto a guitar. They are not used to be stretched out so far and so they need some attention to help them ease into a new transition in their coiled existence. I gave them the attention they needed for three days. Tuning and playing songs that I knew from a classical rendition of “To Zanarkand” to a fun “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
After giving the guitar the attention it deserved from me, I knew it was time to pass it along. I had mixed feelings about leaving that instrument, my first one, in the hands of the kind pastor at St. James Lutheran Church, because I had taken the care to make it whole again and revive it. I knew that someday it would make someone very happy or at least give them a chance to have some fun.
I received many great gifts this season, but the best one by far was in the picture and the beginning of this post. This is the guitar that I cleaned in the hands of someone who was not able to afford a musical instrument. I watched as he played “Away in a Manger” for the first time and walked out with the guitar. I wanted to run after him and tell him all of the history and wonders that I discovered, but then I decided that making one’s own history and discovering the potency of the memories found in the guitar is more worthwhile for his musical experience.
There’s a lot more that I could say, but alas I have greatly exceeded my word limit already by quite a bit. Perhaps next week I will reflect on this subject some more.
Until Next Friday!