When you're 11 years old you wake up early on Christmas day, you just do.
Christmas was always amazing at our house. I remember being so excited on this particular Christmas because, under the tree, just beyond the hockey gear and the socks and the new pajamas, I saw it. I wasn't sure I saw it ... but I saw it.
In the run-up to Christmas, there could've been no doubt what I wanted to see under that tree. I wrote to Santa, I begged, pleaded, whimpered, and cajoled. I dropped hints and made suggestions (kids are about as subtle and a jackhammer).
Then, on Christmas morning, when I unwrapped my present, my heart soared like an F-4 Phantom with blazing afterburners going vertical. It was loud! It was spectacular! It was a brand spanking new electric guitar - AND IT WAS RED! I strapped it on, cranked it up and made my parents sorry they ever had a child.
For me, it was the best gift ever! (aside from that whiskey advent calendar I got a couple of years ago - now that was a real gem).
I had no clue what a chord was, I had no idea a note was. But, oh man, it was a rip-roarin' blast whaling on my brand new "ax". That's until blood started to trickle out of my ears, my fingers resembled freshly ground hamburger and our poor unfortunate neighbors had to summon the noise police. All's well and good until there's a court order involved.
The parental units finally gave up on the thought that I might spontaneously emerge with some sort of musical genius. Having admitted they were powerless over my horrible guitar pounding, they gave their lives over to a higher power, consulted the yellow pages and decided it was time to trade some hard earned cash for the edification of their number one son.
My guitar teacher was Mrs. Elenor Spicer. God only knows how I remember that - I just do. She was a pleasant enough muse who taught music out of her living room. Every Wednesday after school I'd hop on my bike and point my body in the direction of Mrs. Spicer's house two and a half miles away. That's way back when we still used Mr. and Mrs. to address big people.
Do you know it's hard to ride a bicycle and carry a guitar? If you're me it's really difficult.
You either have to hold the handlebars with one hand and carry the guitar in the other or ride with no hands and use both hands to carry the guitar. I can't imagine why neither my parents, my teacher nor I thought about using the guitar strap to hang the thing on my back. It would have been much easier and oh so much safer. Nobody wore a helmet back then. One wrong move and life could have been much different for me.
My parents should have known better but I think my mother liked to watch me suffer.
Perhaps that's why I have this enduring image blistered in my mind. I can see my mother laughing her @$s off watching her feeble son ride off into the sunset for his lessons. One hand holding the guitar and the other holding the handlebars, the poor kid (me) wobbled down the road like a drunkard leaving the pub at closing time.
The first song I learned was "Try a Little Kindness" by Glenn Campbell. Believe me, I was no Glenn Campbell.
I struggled to get it right. Mrs. Spicer was very kind and encouraging and everything you'd want in a guitar teacher. The problem was I didn't practice enough. Actually, I don't think I practiced at all. Why I expected to show up week after week magically improved I don't know. We are blind to our stupidity sometimes.
After a while I let it go. I didn't pick it up again until years later. In other words, I gave up. Sure, I would take it out to tickle the strings sometimes but for the most part, the guitar stayed locked up and out of mind.
Years later, I picked the guitar up again. I took lessons and practiced and eventually got better. I'll never be Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck but I've found with practice and perseverance I can put some of my shortcomings behind me.
Many beers later, a friend and I started playing music in his basement for fun. We kept at it month after month. We started to improve. One thing led to another, a few others joined us and we ended up playing some gigs together. It was so much fun. I loved it.
It's the same with painting. The more I paint the more confident I get. Eventually, I've started to see myself get better.
I hope I've learned my lesson. If you stick with something you can get better. It can open up a whole new set of opportunities.
I'm really glad I picked up painting and drawing again too. I can't wait to see where it leads. I love to do it and getting better gives me some encouragement and confidence.
You really do get some do-overs in life. It's never too late to get back in the saddle and do what you love. It makes this aging rocker and painter very happy.
What makes you happy?
What have you left it for dead on the side of the road?
Pick it up again. Dust it off - it will change your life.