I open the case and the scent takes me right back, that peculiar musty, dusty guitar smell so evocative of the hot, cramped little practice room in the back of the music shop one summer.
I took guitar lessons when I was in high school, after my parents came back with a Fender acoustic from a rummage sale. I saw a worn black leather case with tan stitching, prone to popping open if I wasn’t careful about the clasps. The cardboard lining was a little worse for the wear, and the cardboard box for picks that rested beneath the neck of the guitar was missing its lid.
The guitar was perfect. I smoothed my hand over the polished toasted-buttery grain with its darkened edges. I had no idea how old it was, but it was all new to me, from the cream-colored pick guard to the thick brass strings.
I’d always loved playing musical instruments. I started with the cello in 4th grade, added the clarinet in 5th and by the time I got to the guitar, discovered I could sing.
Despite my brother having an electric guitar, I’d never considered playing it myself before this one arrived at my house. Suddenly I was taking lessons, strumming naturally in a down-up-down-up pattern, learning new songs. I remember how excited I was when I played “Yesterday,” up there in that little practice room and later out in the yard beneath a tree without the music book.
I even wrote a snippet of an instrumental and proudly played it for my teacher. Probably nothing spectacular, but it was all mine.
And today I’m giving my guitar away.
One by one over the years I’ve dropped my instruments. First the clarinet and then the cello (which will always be my favorite, but that’s a subject for another post) as school schedules and other things took over. Singing took the forefront for awhile, as did college and then work and life in general, and one day I realized it’s been 10 or 15 years since I’d last really played my guitar.
Still, I hadn’t seriously considered giving it away until this past weekend when clutter clearing was suddenly the thing to do. It’s true: Once clutter clearing takes hold of you, you don’t want to stop until you’ve cleared your entire space. You really do get a sense of achievement, relief, freshness. Room to put more things in. Wait, that’s bad!
But some things give you pause, as I found when I got into the closet where my guitar had lived for far too long.
It was a momentous decision for me, the “I might need it some day” pack rat with attachment issues. Should I let it continue to sit unregarded, taking up space in my closet and subconscious, only occasionally looking at it and thinking I should try to strum a few chords?
Or should I give it away to someone who could be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan, Elmore James, Bo Diddley…or just someone who wants a little more music in their life?
I took pictures and posted them on Facebook. Within minutes, a friend I work with said he’d take it.
Now that I’m at the point of giving it away, I suddenly have qualms. Is it the mere act of parting with something that had been a part of me for so long? Or do I suddenly want to play it again and relearn all the fingering and chords I’ve forgotten?
I brought the guitar to work with me this morning, and its new owner is here. No more time to decide.
I took it over to his cube.
“Sure you don’t want to keep it?” he asked me. Terrible words for a pack rat to hear! I admit, I really had to think about it for a moment. Was my attachment too strong? Would I back out of the whole deal?
But as he took it out of its case, his hands molding around it, strumming the chords, admiring it, I knew I couldn’t take it back. This person understood guitars. And this guitar deserved to be played, not just sitting in its case for another 10 or 15 years.
“Do you want anything for it?” he asked. I didn’t. I had no idea what it was worth, and besides…you can’t sell dreams.
He said he’d record a song with it and let me know how it goes, and if he ever decided to give it away, he’d let me know first so I could take it back.
May it have a fantastic life.
ETA: First track he recorded with my guitar!
What have you given away that’s been an emotional yet ultimately good experience?
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