Even Children Get Older


I began taking guitar lessons in the fall of 1976, shortly after I turned eight and just about a year after Fleetwood Mac released their self-title album that held the song Landslide. It is not surprising then that Landslide was one of the first songs I learned to play. I can remember sitting on a hard chair, holding my borrowed Yamaha guitar, while my guitar teacher scribbled the lyrics and chords on a tan piece of notepaper. I was too young to understand the lyrics but the melody and rhythm and emotion of the song touched me and, because of that, I played the song for years. I never mastered the precise picking pattern because I was lazy and content to play a version I felt was "good enough" though I knew the rhythm was off. Zeca has been learning various picking patterns and every Wednesday, I sit in the music store where she has her lessons and listen as her fingers struggle to find the right strings in the right pattern at the right time. She makes mistakes and starts again, sometimes more frustrated with herself than others, and her guitar teacher encourages her while I sit with my phone and sift through emails and scroll through Facebook or read articles online. I don't always pay close attention to her lesson, not because I am not interested but because I find that when I focus on her, I am drawn to things that are unimportant--the exasperation, the slumped posture, the sighs as her teacher asks her to play something again. Though I could have taught her guitar, I turned it over to someone else for a reason--because I knew that I wouldn't have the patience to be the teacher she needed. So, while she strums and picks and struggles, I stay out of it.

Yesterday, she had her lesson and I listened as she played one of the picking patterns for her teacher and he told her he was going to accompany her but he wanted to show her a video first so that she could see how the parts fit together. He scooted closer to her, his phone in his hand, and the video began and I heard the unmistakable first notes of Landslide. I lifted my head and watched the two of them huddled together and then Zeca nodded and he set his phone aside and they began. No longer absent of context, I listened as the pattern my daughter had been practicing for weeks became the melody of Landslide.

I thought of my eight-year-old self trying to perfect the picking pattern and my nine-year-old daughter doing the same. I thought of a small room in an old house in Kansas City with two chairs and a music stand and this small music store in Minneapolis with the same and the distance between the two. I thought of the years and all the decisions--large and small--that brought us here and sat in awe of the strange and unpredictable circle of life.

And, though neither of them sang, the lyrics were clear in my head,

But time makes you bolder

Even children get older

And I'm getting older too