I was always feeling too busy and too tired to do things. I was newly single, with 3 children and a time consuming job. Since spring my youngest had wanted to go looking at acoustic guitars. It took me until the heat of summer to promise that on my next day off we would go out to Tinicum Guitar Barn, a place I had seen a little wooden sign for on Route 611. "Just to look," I said. We were happy to have a plan.
The day came and it was hot and sunny. Following the wooden arrow I had noticed months before, we left the major road. We drove winding roads for a while, backtracking because we missed a few turns. The arrows pointing the way were placed up in the trees and the leaves had grown over some of them. We were feeling a little adventurous, because it was so rural and in the woods. We were lost in a “fun” way. We were happy.
We suddenly thought we found it. We pulled into a gravel-covered driveway that seemed to appear in the middle of nowhere. The crunch of tires clearly announced our arrival to this bare chested man sitting within the wide-open cave of a garage. The garage was set up like a living room. Garage bay open, he was actually perched in the middle of a traditional family room sofa. He was sitting in profile, facing a TV. As I got out of the car, he took a drag from his cigarette. He flicked ashes into a brass ashtray stand that stood on the floor, the kind my great grandfather had used for his cigars when I was a little girl.
There was not a guitar in site, so I was uncertain.
“I am not sure if this is the Guitar Barn,” I said, having left my son in the car. The bare chested man pointed to some wooden stairs that headed up along the wall behind the thick, boxy TV. I think the TV had outstretched rabbit ear antennas perched on top.
I gestured for my son to join me.
“Go on up. Feel free to play anything. Holler if you need me. Close the door after you, it’s air conditioned up there.”
Up we went. I closed the door after us, securing us in an attic-like space. We could no longer hear the cicada’s rattling in the trees, or the TV sounds. We could no longer smell the cigarette smoke.
Sunlight streamed in through a back window, and in it floated a galaxy of tiny little dust flecks. Our eyes scanned the space. There were used guitars on stands, guitars hanging from the ceiling, old toy plastic guitars, and guitars tucked way back in corners with a few dainty spider webs. Worn out oriental rugs criss- crossed in layers under our feet.
My boy was shy at first, strolling around the room, taking inventory. He was tapped into the pure self-wisdom that 11 year olds have before the world tries to change them. It was some time before he even picked one up to strum it, but we were in no hurry, we had nowhere else to be.This was the single event we had assigned to this day. There was no attic clock and I had no cell phone to distract me. I dragged a stool into the patch of sun and settled myself. From here I just watched and loved my beautiful golden boy.
He would pick up a guitar over here, make friends with it by sharing some chords or a song; and set it back in its spot. He would pick up a guitar over there.
At some cosmic moment he rounded yet again around a certain electric guitar that had caught his eye first thing. A different “category,” he looked to me for permission before he reached for it.
It was a 2003 Gibson Les Paul Supreme, with a root beer finish.
The universe took a breath and held it, I think now. For this was the point we lost our sense of time, when we met this instrument. Was it the size of it? The balance? For once my boy lifted the strap over his head, this guitar rested against his body, an instant companion, a new limb. They introduced themselves politely. They talked to each other. From time to time they included me, asked me questions with rising notes and then answered them, not needing me. Without our knowledge the notes made their way downstairs and called to the bare chested man, lifting him from his perch. He came up and wordlessly looked about, dragged forth an amp, and got the new friends plugged in. “You’re good,” he said. He left them to play louder together.
At some point we realized hours had gone by.
We drove home, bringing only the sweetness of the day back with us.
The guitar had been very expensive. It was nothing we were considering.
That night I described the magic of the day to my two older sons, who are just as special and loved by me. Without my asking, they each said we should invest in the guitar. We should use a chunk of family money to get something that was just for Chris. They both said he worked that hard. They both said he was that good.
Why was this day so special? Was it the day itself, and the delicious expanse of focused time together? To now be able to call up and relive the memory; even feeling the warmth of the sun despite the air conditioner, be back in that dusty room again, is that the gift? Was it unselfish love, having two older brothers emphatically believing in you and declaring it so clearly? Was it seeing the joy you created when the youngest heard of our unanimous family decision, how we made his face glow with delight? ? Was it the gift of seeing, and the gift of being seen? Or was it that, in all those busy days, I had carved out time that was meaningful beyond expectation. I had given us a life moment together.
I loved that day then, and I love it now.
Do not forget to LIVE your LIFE while you are living your life. Don't live life and miss your LIFE.