When I was 14

When I was 14

I was 14 when my older sister (17) got a job as a nanny in Wyoming and was gone for the whole summer. Her room in our home in Palo Alto was a 6×6 foot space in the garage that was the ultimate teenagers’ hideaway. It had been built as a darkroom by the former owners, and when we bought it my dad had cut a hole in the wall for a window and installed a cot and some shelves. With her gone, I found refuge there, away from my younger sister and brother (ages 4 and 1 at that time).
She had left behind her nylon-string guitar. In my copious summer free time I picked up the guitar, and, using only the top three strings, would write little melodies. (I couldn’t for the life of me figure how you got your fingers all the way around to play the other strings). Unlike the piano in the living room, which somehow did not lend itself to ‘goofing around’, the guitar, and that tiny room, allowed me to just find my way into music.
After a few weeks, I hungered for more. My sister had also left behind her Joan Baez songbook. Not my usual fare, but I noticed that each song had little chord diagrams which showed you where to put your fingers to make chords. It was so simple! All of a sudden I could make C and G and D chords! I was in heaven. It wasn’t rock and roll, but at least it was a guitar, the instrument of rock and roll!
Then I took the guitar over to the piano, and found the same notes that were in guitar chords existed on the piano. You could make chords on the piano! Brilliant! Music was suddenly simple and grasp-able, and, most of all, fun.  The fun hasn’t stopped yet…


  1. Rose

    Oh my goodness, I remember this teenager! I grew up in a big family and privacy was scarce, until my older sisters moved out. I remember finding refuge in the tree in the front yard.
    My dad had a guitar (mandolin too), and I would try playing it, but it was too big for my kid hands. I played violin in elementary school (it was hard, but easy to fudge notes), and we had a piano. Our piano teacher taught us to play using chords (I learned to read music, but found it easy to play by ear); I remember I had to play a classical piece for her and totally skipped over the part I was having trouble with! She didn’t say anything, so I think maybe her mind filled in that part 😀 Whenever I see kids with their school-issued instruments, I ask them to play something for me. No matter the quality, I always encourage them and applaud vigorously!

    1. gunnar

      Sweet… I love hearing ANYone play ANYthing, ANYtime! The girl next door has been learning the flute for a couple of years. It’s plodding, halting, unsure, but I love hearing her working on it, finding notes and tone. Eventually, I can recognize the melody she’s working towards. But just the sound of someone trying to figure something out is pleasing to me.

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