Monday, November 28, 2011

Take these six strings and make them sing.

When I was younger, I wanted a guitar. Badly. I think I asked for one at least four Christmases in a row, before my parents were ultimately amazing and gave me one my junior year (I think) of high school.

Why did I want a guitar? Well, when I was growing up, for Labor Day weekend, every year, we went to my parents' friend's farm, for two or three days, and at night, there was a guy, or two, or three, depending on the night and the year, who had his acoustic guitar and people would gather by the bonfire as he played and others sang along. Every year, he'd play "American Pie" by Don McLean, and every year, there'd be mass confusion as to the verses. (I will admit, I know them all and in order...)

It inspired me. I wanted to be like Mike (that's the main guitarist for the campfires of 'yore.. haha).

So, my parents gave me a guitar, and I took it upon myself to learn to play.

An embarassing tidbit: When I first picked up the lesson book, it told me something to the effect of "place your finger on a string next to the fret, but not touching it." My critical reading skills at the time were... lacking, and I placed my finger between the strings, next to the fret, not touchign them, and would get pretty frustrated when I'd try to pluck a string to get a really "pingy" yet airy noise... but don't worry, I figured it out shortly after.

Over the course of a few months, I taught myself to play guitar.

Fast forward. I met Jake. And he played guitar, too. *swoon*

Playing guitar, whether it'd be me alone, Jake alone and for me, or the two of us together, has been a very substantial part of our relationship (in fact, our first "official" date was at Falls Park with both of our guitars. We took pictures (and I can't find one anywhere to show you, go figure, but they do exist))...

...up until a year or two ago, when I nearly stopped playing altogether while I was pregnant with Spencer.

Yeah. I can't claim that I'm proud of that.

Last night (Sunday), Jake asked me if I would play guitar with him. I said yes, half heartedly, as I have been any time I agree to do so lately (which isn't often). Why halfheartedly? I wish I could pinpoint that and give a precise answer, but, I can't. I think it has something to do with the fact that I can't get my fingers to properly form a bar chord, or an F, or any variation of an F, or a B...

And, honestly, sometimes I get frustrated playing guitar with Jake, because, in my opinion, he is exponentially better at it than I am. Kind of how he would feel about having a mascara application party with me (not that we have ever done that, nor do I believe it would interest him at all...)- a bit inferior, possibly.

Whatever the underlying reason, I haven't been all that "into" playing guitar for quite some time.

But, because I wanted to spend quality time with Jake, and do something he would enjoy, I agreed.

The first half of our playing together was Jake trying to teach me songs that he knew, while I tried to figure out what chords he was playing by watching him, or he occasionally called them out to me. It was alright, but it wasn't the best time I'd ever had. Though, I will admit, any time Jake plays guitar, or I play guitar (I have a few times since SJ was born), it is the CUTEST and most wonderful thing to see Spencer dancing to the music, or "singing" as we play, or even... *gulp*... trying to HELP us play our guitars (and mind you, Spencer has FOUR of his own guitars). I get goosebumps and practically cry every single time.

While Jake was giving Spencer a bath, I pulled up to the computer, opened the "guitar chords" bookmark folder I had compiled before getting pregnant, and opened a few windows to display songs I used to be able to play from memory and have long since forgotten. Truth be told, if you were to ask me which songs I could play from memory now, I think it'd be... "Time of your Life" by Green Day, and "Wonderwall" by Oasis. Yeah, it's that bad.

But, wouldn't you know it, as soon as I saw the chords for "2a.m. (Breathe)" by Anna Nalick, I picked up right where I left off so many months ago, and belted the lyrics out, playing at my original pace, with my original strumming, like I hadn't missed a day playing that song.

Then, I played and belted out a little "One Sweet Love" by Sara Bareilles. Yup, that one was "good as ever," as well. Huh.

I played a few more while waiting for Jake, including learning a new one "Paperweight," by Schuyler Fisk and Joshua Radin, and after Jake put Spencer to bed, he joined me in front of the computer, and we took turns pulling out a song from the folder, playing it together, and singing. Just like old times.

And it was WONDERFUL. I kick myself for taking such a long break in playing with my husband, and for being such a poo about it when I would play.

Truly, the highlight of our "open mic night" in the kitchen, however (and I think he would probably agree) was when we pulled up "Poison and Wine" by the Civil Wars. I don't remember that we'd ever played it together. I know I book marked it when I first heard the song hoping to learn to play it and sing it with Jake (it's a beautiful duet), but I don't know for certain that we ever had before.

But, when Jake started strumming the rhythm, and I joined, and he sang, and I followed... and then we sang the harmony together... it was FANTASTIC. I am not saying we were the best performance anyone could have heard, and we might not have been even "good" in some opinions, but it felt PERFECT. It sounded symphonic, even without other instruments. I felt like we had stopped time and were holding onto an everlasting moment.

I enjoyed it so much, I asked Jake to do it again.

We played a few more songs, until my fingers felt like they might bleed, and my arm was only playing my "wussy version" of a Bm every time it came up in "When You Come Back Down" by Nickel Creek (Jake played everything, and I only strummed the Bm) and I laughed myself to silly tears.

I woke up this morning, though, still giddy about our concert together last night.

I hope I can hold onto that feeling, and get back in the groove of playing again. I wouldn't want to lose that something special that Jake and I have, after all.

Truth be told, an acoustic version of most any song nearly always ends up being my preferred style. Random tidbit for you.

And, here's a few more "guitar-related" significances from my friendship/courtship/marriage with Jake.
- the first time he ever came to my house, he played guitar, and I have pictures
- he learned to play my favorite song "Name" by the Goo Goo Dolls, and performed it when he randomly surprised me at my parents house
- he learned to play my other favorite song "Crash Into Me" and debuted that at the aforementioned Labor Day gathering in 2003 (I think) in front of a ton of people
- he once came to my parents house and played guitar under my window to serenade me (but I wasn't in my room and had actually run up to the post office and then stayed downstairs until I thought I left my radio on and realized he was in my backyard...)
- he and his best friend broke my first guitar wrestling, and so they chipped in and replaced it and gave it to me for a 4th of July present in... 2002 or 2003. I have it on video.
- our first "official" date
- I gave him a 12-string guitar for his 21st birthday
- we used to play guitar and sing in the racquetball courts at SMSU late at night
- he wrote me a song and performed it for me at open mic night on my 21st birthday
- I wrote him a song, and my friend got it on a webcam video
- and others... but my fingers are cramping.

(PS: I took the photos I included in this entry, so please, don't be taking them.)


  1. Can we please have a mascara application party?

    I'm glad you're playing again. I need to do the same. I've gotten pretty lazy. It was because I got pregnant. No, wait, that was you. I have no excuse...

  2. I LOVE Nickel Creek! Like SUPER a lot!

    AND "Crash Into Me" is by far my favorite DMB song! I didn't know you loved it too!