After helping my parents and elderly friend downsize their houses I have had to take a serious look at my own home and wonder what will be important to my children some day when it comes time to either keep or discard the things so important to me. They say the only thing you can take with you when you leave this life is the knowledge you gained here and I have to believe the memories of those who have left footprints on your lives. As I looked around my home I wondered which pictures would be important to my children. Who would want the things that were so precious to me and have I left enough memories behind to make them important to my children. There are the two poetry books that my sister and I have fought over for years. Loved not because they were old but because of the many hours we sat and listened to our mother read them to us. There are the polyester hand sewn quilts that will never wear out in outlandish colors from our childhood dresses. Memories of playing under quilting frames as my mother and her friends quilted them. Then there are more current memories. The bears all over my house collected as children traveled and sent them home or from shopping trips with Dan when they just happened to jump into his arms or my cart. And I mustn’t forget the garage full of Snow Village houses lovingly displayed and taken down each year at Christmas. A true Burrow Christmas Tradition. I think I have already picked out which child will earn the right to my genealogical collection as she diligently raises her family and calls often enough to ask a question to let me know her interests. A lifetime of memories wrapped up in a house full of stuff.
As I helped 1st my parents and then my good friend move it struck me how little these things really mean to anyone but us. As my mother and I sat and cried over her office and her years of work as she discarded one drawer after another I had to wonder what will happen when it is my turn. Will the things I brought home from moms go any further than here or will the day come when I will once again cry buckets of tears as I discard my life’s work keeping only the memories of days gone by.
And so here I set (not that I am old mind you) finding that at least once a day my eyes are drawn to one such item in my home. Not something I gleaned from my moms house or even my friends but an old guitar that once belonged to a cousin who passed away at the age of 26 over 35 years ago. I remember the day my aunt gave me his guitar asking if I would like to have it as a reminder of him. It was missing strings, had a cracked neck, an old brown bandana for a sling and was covered with dust. But it was Craig’s and each time I looked at it I remembered my cousin. Little did I know that this particular guitar would play such a vital role in the memories of my life.
There is a poem called the Touch of the Master’s hand that tells about an old violin broken and discarded lying on the auction block. No one wants it until it picked up by a master violinist and beautiful songs come out of it. Then it is worth so much more than anyone can count. And so went the guitar of my life. The day came when my son who in many ways is as wild and carefree as Craig picked up the old guitar, fixed the handle, restrung it and with beauty and grace made the old guitar sing again. As he played he reminded me of those who had gone before and who still touch my life. Of my grandfather who would wile away the evenings on his porch playing his guitar. Grandpa never read a note of music but could listen to any song and then play it with ease and beauty. Each time I look at the guitar in my room I can see him sitting on that porch one leg over the other smoking his cigarette and playing his guitar. Of my cousin who died at such a young age, who had always been my best friend growing up. We had played together, drifted apart, and then became friends again as he and my husband who must have been bosom buddies somewhere in the eternities before time began, became acquainted and found a bond that would last a lifetime. Of my daughter who took guitar classes in college so that she could play by the campfire at night when working at camps. Of my red haired beauty who sings with her children and in the preschools she has taught playing the guitar she learned to use. Of my son the East Coast Teacher who went on a mission to Canada and brought home a guitar that he now plays while his wife sings. Of my son the drifter who walks his life to the beat of his own guitar far removed from my values and teachings but with a song in his heart and guitar always in his hand.
. And so there it sits in a prominent place close to my bed bringing back memories each day of my life. Last week I decided that it was time to share that guitar with my son and so I packed it in my car to take down for him to enjoy only to bring it back again. You see I discovered that I wasn’t ready to give up that particular piece of my life. And so the day will come that my children will have to decide what to do with the guitar that I hold so precious. It may not be worth a lot but to me because of the touch of so many masters hands it will always be worth more than money can buy.
I have to wonder what are the guitars in each of our lives. Have we taught our children to love them as much as we have. It was interesting that when I told my children that I was going to share the guitar each of them said no and told me to keep it at home, that it wasn’t time to send it away yet. So maybe somehow it has made its way into their lives as well. Just a little reminder of mom and what she held so dear.
We each have somewhere in our homes a place where the memories of our ancestors dwell. Maybe in an old trunk or two. Maybe in a box hidden away in the closet. Or just maybe you have been brave enough to put those memories on a shelf to be shared with all. My mother was kind enough to put all those memories into a series of books that we each have a copy of. Maybe we don’t pull it down often enough but the stories are there. Do our children know those stories. Sure they know that mom loves genealogy. But do they truly understand why. Have we taught them that to us those ancestors are more than just objects in our home or names on a piece of paper; to those of us who have learned to read old manuscript, and spent hours in cemeteries and libraries they are just more than a name. To us they have become very real people with personalities, families and stories to share. They have become memories in the guitars of our lives. People we are anxious to meet and love once again.