Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Best… Surprise… Ever.

It all started about a week and a half ago. My Mother-in-Law, Nancy, needed help with her Christmas shopping, so Sunny and I volunteered to go along with her. This being South Carolina, at one point, we ended up at Walmart.

I took a few minutes to go off on my own in order to buy one of Sunny's stocking-fillers, and when I got back, I noticed that Nancy had loaded a Guitar on top of her buggy. I couldn't resist taking a look. I read the box and found myself getting impressed.

You see, back when I got my first guitar, a hundred dollars wouldn't buy you a musical instrument, especially not from a department store… all a department store could offer you for a hundred bucks was a poorly made toy. This one, however, was actually much better than my first 'real' guitar. Obviously, it wasn't in the same league as my old Gibson SG, but it was a genuine instrument. Real rosewood fretboard and bridge, spruce top…all in all, a very, very decent guitar.

I felt my fingers start to itch.

Let me take a moment here to reveal a couple things that are little weird about myself. Firstly, Musical instruments are the only thing in my life that even approach spiritual or religious status. I think this is something that all musicians feel, and something that's almost impossible to explain to non-musicians.

Ever seen a kid playing with a guitar and hitting the strings way too hard, letting out dischord after dischord? To me, that sounds like that guitar is screaming in pain. Honestly. I can't stand it.

The second thing is that I believe every musician forms a very real bond with their instrument. This is why I won't own a second hand guitar without knowing its history. For example a guitar changing owners through an inheritance or a gift is fine…but a guitar getting separated from its owner through theft or a forced sale just fills the guitar with bad mojo.

Bearing all this in mind, I hope this makes it easier to understand that when my last guitar was stolen, it was a genuine bereavement. It was like losing a family member and part of myself all at the same time. The best way I can explain it is that it doesn't feel like my guitar was stolen…it feels like my guitar was kidnapped.

So while I really, really, really miss playing the guitar, I didn't want to buy a second hand one…and after playing a genuine Gibson SG for so long, I couldn't imagine buying a hundred dollar 'toy'. It would be like spending ten years behind the wheel of a Lamborghini then switching to a golf cart.

Anyway, as I looked at the guitar on top of the buggy, I knew I wanted to play the guitar again…and I found I honestly didn't care who the was made by as long as it was new, had six strings and would hold a tune. I felt like a widower who suddenly found himself able to date again.

Fast forward to the beginning of this week:

Because we'd spent so much money on fixing our bedroom roof, money was extremely tight. Given that my parents had already bought me the Xbox 360 a couple of months ago, I'd told Sunny not to buy me anything for Christmas.

However, I remembered that this was Sunny I was talking about, Mrs. Christmas herself. Telling her not to buy me a Christmas gift had about as much chance of success as trying to explain the point of the Constitution to George Dubya. So, aetting a new guitar had been playing on my mind and I'd had an idea:

"Hey Sweetie?" I said. "You know my birthday's in January… so for Christmas, how about you just put whatever you were going to spend on me back so I can put it towards a new guitar for my birthday?"

"I've already bought you your Christmas present." She said. "But we'll see what we can do when your birthday gets here."

Rats. I thought.

Fast forward one more time to yesterday afternoon:

Nancy had come over to the house so Sunny could help her wrap her Christmas presents. While she was over, she asked if I could tune the guitar for her. Obviously, I agreed.

I took the guitar out of the box and set to tuning it. I found myself getting more impressed. It felt good, it sounded good, and once its new owner had played it for a week or so and worn it in a little, it would be a very nice guitar. I even liked the way it looked. Once it was tuned and I'd 'tested' it by playing a couple of tunes, I reluctantly put it back in its box.

A little while later, Sunny was wrapping the gifts, Nancy left and I spent a few hours with Sunny using every bit of self-control I have to stop myself from taking the guitar out of the box and playing it.

Happily, I did manage to stop myself. Firstly, it was someone else's Christmas present, and I didn't want to mess up the instrument's mojo for whoever it was destined for.

Later that night, Nancy came back over to the house to pick up the newly wrapped gifts and after I showed her into the living room, she opened her purse, took out a couple of guitar picks and handed them to me.

"There you go." She said. "Merry Christmas."

I looked down at the picks. One was blue-black pearl. The light caught it as I turned it over in my hand.


You see, it wouldn't be completely beyond believability that Nancy had forgotten that my SG had been stolen…or that she'd mistaken the strat-shaped Rock Band controller standing in the corner for a real guitar. I wasn't sure what to say.

"Thanks!" I finally managed and made myself smile. I turned and put the picks up on the shelf where I keep my old SG's strap. "Now I just need to get a guitar to go with them."

"No you don't" Said Nancy, sounding a little puzzled.

I was right…she'd forgotten my guitar had been stolen or thought the Rock Band controller was a real one.

I turned to explain and saw both Nancy and Sunny just beaming at me. She pointed at the guitar I'd tuned earlier that day "You've got one right there."

It took a few moments for what she was saying to sink in. Nancy had bought the guitar for me. I just hugged her and did my best not to cry.

It's honestly one of the best and most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.

…and if I catch anyone trying to steal this one, I will shoot them in the face. That is not a joke.


Evan 08 said...

Very nice.

I'm going to guess that it's a Crate or a Squire Stratocaster. Pics?

Paulius said...

Actually, it's a 'First Act' acoustic...that's why I was so surprised at how good quality it was.

I mean, it's not quite a Gibson or Rickenbacker...but it's definitely a model I'd recommend for beginning to intermediate players.

Evan 08 said...

I've been kind of wanting an acoustic guitar lately. I tend to play without plugging in, and strumming an electric guitar without any amplification leaves a little to be desired.