Kelley J. Leigh

Loud World. Quiet Soul. Listen beyond the noise.

Guitar Picks

Originally posted October 2009.

The Evidence of Music

guitar picks dryer

Guitar Picks in the Dryer

The pile by the door was everything he needed. An amp, guitar cases, backpack, stage cases, and a computer. The morning sun wasn’t up. Wind and snow whistled by the door as it opened and closed and opened again. The pile shifted from our door into the back of the pick-up. My son’s life shifted from our house to the road.

Goodbyes. The same backpack that followed him around the world during an eight month trip after high school is now going with him on tour with a band. A trip across America has different risks than a global journey. And I have to be honest, it’s much easier to watch my oldest son leave this time than it was the last. Hopefully, these young adult good-byes will become familiar and maybe a little less sad with each departing. I have no idea. I’m new at this season of parenting.

andrew before band tourThe day before he left, I stationed myself in the house. I wanted to be around for a full day of music… a day to listen to his voice. Andrew’s guitar has become his voice. He started dabbling with guitar in 1st grade. He got an electric bass when he was 9. Like most instruments with kids, it got set down and picked up now and then. 7th grade was his turning point. It got serious and stayed that way. His guitars have moved on and off stage with American teen bands, touring Brazilian dance bands, and worship bands in Uganda . He has played in front of thousands of people in India, and clusters of friends around camp fires. His inner music has traveled and grown. He’s been on a long path with it. In the last few months, his life has felt like a waiting pattern. Between trip and college, he’s been like a grounded airplane, waiting for take-off.

And, in the waiting, his guitar started to play voices I didn’t recognize.

He came home from the world trip playing the blues. I think his life circumstances, and a double slam of mononucleosis and malaria gave his blues depth. His summer job leading worship pushed his voice out in front of his guitar, and somehow it was an entirely different voice than I expected. Hour after hour, day after day music poured out of his life-on-hold. Wafting around the house were his versions of songs by John Mayer, U2, Thrice, B.B.King, Bach, The Fray, Dave Matthews … everyday some different artist, and a bunch of original ideas dumped out of his head and into the house.

Guitar Picks. For the last few weeks, he’s been preparing to go on tour professionally, as a lead guitar player. The living room has been full of music gear — amps, processors, cords, guitar stands, the Mac, and pages full of music notation, and guitar picks. Guitar picks are like Legos. They are everywhere and always with us. Typically, picks get shoved in pockets, and end up in the bottom of the dryer.

He usually sits on the couch with a guitar pick between his teeth, working on the music. Day before departure was no different. I orbited and listened. It’s hard to explain how sweet it is to have Andrew’s music playing. And I’m going to miss it, like I miss his voice. Sure, there are still three brothers at home. But, the quiet absence will be obvious for a while. The atmosphere changes when someone walks into your room and turns off your music.

It’s right to watch him finally get clearance for take-off.

Kids grow up and fly away. They take their music with them when they depart. And hopefully there is a process for acclimating to quieter living rooms, and cold early morning good-byes. But, I think there will always be Legos under the couch, and guitar picks in the dryer.

I’m not sure about that last part. Like I said, I’m new at this.

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