One particular Christmas, the gift-opening anticipation especially killing me. I knew in my heart that there would be an abundance of surprise, as there always was, but there was only one thing I needed. I was so confident that we were all on the same wavelength, I’m not sure I even communicated this need clearly to anyone else. Looking back, one would have had to have been a mind reader to know that I clearly needed my own guitar. There was one available to me, but it was older and warped and the action, the distance from the strings to the neck, was so high, it took a herculean effort to play a chord.
This particular guitar had been my grand-father’s and I loved the wood, loved the smell of it. It smelled like my early sawdust sculptures mixed with a little of Pop-pop’s cherry wood tobacco. It didn’t have a case, instead, a lovely drawstring bag that my sister made. One side was a solid mustard corduroy, and the other side was a patchwork. Donna sewed many of my outfits and costumes, and many of the patches on the drawstring guitar bag were cut from pieces of fabric craps leftover from her efforts.
A particular favorite was the year I played Mrs. Santa Clause in a school play, and Mrs. Santa wore an apron adorned with colorful circles of pastel fabric with a bumpy, uneven texture. I loved this apron, and it kind of assuaged my hurt feelings over my non-speaking part in the play. If you had a kid who’s annual report card griped that she never shut up, why wouldn’t you let them have a line in the school play?
The drawstring for the guitar bag was a heavily braided, nylon-coated affair. The sack, not quite long enough, allowed the headstock to poke out a little, and there was plenty of room inside for a songbook or two.
I never lusted after that guitar, but I liked messing with it. The object of my six-string obsession still loomed in the future, but I was pretty sure that holiday season that it wasn’t this:
Yes, I was somehow sure that telepathically Santa knew I was ready for a “big girl” guitar and so I was mega-surprised when I came down the stairs and saw the unwrapped Magnus chord organ with the car-sized yellow bow attached. It was the equivalent of getting a steak knife when you thought you were getting an actual working light saber.
Funny to look back on now, had I embraced this reedy little machine I would have learned about chords and chord structure, patterns, keys and transposition. Instead I learned that you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might get it one long year later.