When I was twelve years old my dad tried to teach me how to play guitar. It didn’t go over so well. There’s something about a parent playing the role of a teacher that incites frustration and rebellion in the youthful spirit.
On Sundays we would retreat to his band room in the basement, surrounded by tapestries emblazoned with the names of his favorite rock bands and framed pictures that were snapped while he squatted illegally in front rows. Looking back on these memories I realize he must have been younger than I am now when the pictures of musicians and stages and orange-toned lights were taken.
After what was never more than twenty minutes, I would grow frustrated and resolve to simply observe my father while he played. My hands were too small, my fingers uncalloused; in middle school, I deemed the language of guitarists uncrackable.
The boy who lives in the basement at the house I rent now plays guitar sometimes. Usually late at night, creeping into early morning. I can make it out through the floor if I’m quiet enough. To the tired ear, it sounds like my father’s strumming in the basement, the lullaby of my life.
But I cannot lose sleep waiting to catch the sound of an acoustic through floorboards anymore.
My 22nd birthday is this week. Willing to gamble that my hands have grown stronger over the past 10 years, I decided to shoot my father a text: “Do we have an extra guitar at the house?”
He replied: “Yes, the one you got for Christmas when you were younger.” I was twelve, to be exact. My father’s strength lies in music, not age.
The guitar has new strings now, and I have two new picks to pluck it with. The plan is to teach myself this time; I’m not at the family home on Sunday mornings anymore. A man on YouTube – whose tone of voice I did not like – taught me E and A chord the other night.
I might go home and ask my dad for some help.