Daddy’s Guitar

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Daddy’s Guitar, Descriptive Essay for Comp. I, 9-17-99

One of the fondest memories from my childhood happened at my Meema’s house. My cousin Clint and I would crawl under Meema’s bed to pull out the treasures she had beneath it. The best treasure belonged to me, but was not really in my possession until I got older. Out of all the dust-covered items under her bed, my favorite was my late father’s guitar.

Me and Clint.
Me and Clint.

The hard plastic handle of the torn, faded black guitar case felt grainy in my hands. As I pulled the case to where I could open it, the dust stirred, causing me to sneeze and cough. Smells of cedar and stale cigarettes filled the room as Clint and I opened the warped case. The odors quickly blended with the muskiness of Meema’s house.

Royal blue velvet lined the inside of the case and felt rough to my fingers. The second I touched the guitar strap, which had a red, orange, yellow and brown flowered texture, I imagined a time of love beads and music with meaning. I was told to never take the guitar out of the case, but the temptation was strong as I ran my tiny hands over the smooth, shiny, red wood. Tapping my fingers against the guitar produced the hollow sound of a drum, which delighted my cousin, for he was not allowed to touch the guitar at all.

Giving in to my curiosity, I did take the guitar out of the case for a moment before guiltily returning it. I had prepared to lift with all of my strength, so the lightness of the instrument surprised me. Although Daddy’s guitar was larger than I was, I could lift it easily. It was then, holding a key part of my father’s childhood, that I knew the reason for the rule. The guitar was very old and would have shattered had I dropped it.

As a teenager, Daddy could play music after only hearing it once, known by most as “playing by ear.” Even as a child of six, I knew that the sounds the guitar produced when I strummed the rippled strings were sour notes to my ears. Despite the unpleasant sounds, I loved hearing the “music” because it reminded me of Daddy, even though I had been too young to remember when he had played and sung for me. His voice seemed trapped inside the guitar and inside the flat notes I played.

The treasure ritual always ended as my cousin and I used our strong, short legs to push the guitar case back under the bed. We knew that a week later the dust would seem as though we had never moved anything. Being so confident in our rule-breaking, Clint and I never knew until years later that Meema had stood in the doorway many times watching us.

Now Daddy’s guitar is under my own bed, where it has been for five years. The case and guitar have aged another decade, but both appear the same to me as when I was six. Every time I pull the guitar from under my bed and play the untuned instrument, I remember Meema’s rule. The stale cigarette smell has faded and been replaced by the smell of the used paperbacks which share the space under my bed. I could have Daddy’s guitar repaired so it will sound as it must have when he bought it, but I doubt I will. No one could love the old guitar, the way it is now, more than I do. It will never sound like it did when my father played, but I will treasure it forever.

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