Mon 31 Jan 2011
once, i thought we were a matched set of shoes, toes pointing together.
the bloom is off the rose. he is a cowboy boot, i see it now. or maybe a brogue, stitched and sewn in ways that will never match my own. but still i admire the curve of a heel, the shape of something different and curious.
he approaches every new thing as if it is the first, the only.
i noticed it first in our early, lazy days, expats with too much time to kill. drinking and smoking and sex are exquisite hobbies, and talking into the night is an art form we perfected. but when a pair only work fifteen hours a week, they are eventually forced back on their resources.
i taught him to play Scrabble.
i thought of Scrabble as a delightful way to share the pleasure of words. i liked to coo over my competitor’s seven-letter accomplishments, work together to see if we could make the board a patchwork of poetry. he read the two-letter-word list from the dictionary and was kicking my ass within a week.
when he takes to something, he goes at it heart and soul, to win. that took me aback, at first: i took it personally, his ethic of competition. i did not grow up with that. but then neither did i grow up with the ethic of self-application, of intentional effort. i did not know that what did not come easy could still be gained.
he has taught me.
he is learning guitar.
i grew up a folkie, my Bowie fetish aside. i played dolls to Joan Baez and Kris Kristofferson, branched out to Dylan and Guthrie – father and son – in high school. John Prine was a legacy i inherited from my father and stepmother, Janis Joplin who i wanted to be when i grew up. i knew all the words to everything.
i got my first guitar at almost 23. first Christmas far from home, in a smoky basement apartment on Davie Street in Vancouver. i didn’t even know how to hold it, didn’t know a chord from a carburetor.
it was the first thing in my life i ever worked at.
i played by ear, and from the small book of chords that came with the case. i eked out “Leaving on a Jet Plane” first, with full stops in the singing where i had to change chords. then “Me & Bobby McGee,” a signature Kris/Janis blend that made me puffy with pride. i learned to pluck a string or two for “Wish You Were Here” and “Friend of the Devil,” but that was the apex of my vocation: i never got much past four chords and a simple strum. it never entered my mind to master, just to make a joyful noise. along the way, i taught myself to sing. i found my key, and my voice, and i was happy.
my calluses have faded over the last few years, though two guitars sit in our living room. at Christmas, Oscar’s grandparents bought a wee one for him. it came with an instructional CD, way over his head, but apparently quite entertaining for his father.
because suddenly, he plays.
in a month, Dave has learned things on guitar i never will. he’s working on a fingerpicking riff that sounds remarkably like “Dust in the Wind.” fifteen times or so a day. he’s taking lessons, now.
i do not mind being left in that dust, this time.
my children watch him, and learn that if they work at something, they will get better. i watch him, and pick up my old guitar, and try to catch up.
maybe it will last, this music…my slow plunking a balance to his passion, a reason to keep going. it’s hard to say. i tease him that he is part crow, drawn to the next bit of shiny.
and yet, he is still here.
and we walk together, not matched as i once thought. but maybe better.
do you think likeness matters, in a partnership?