From: The Hamilton Spectator (April 13, 2004)

"It’s not just bad music, it’s loud bad music"

I believe all kids need hobbies. Both Marc and Jackson are good athletes, so it came as no surprise when Marc announced he wanted to take up the guitar. The musical talent in our family wouldn't slosh out of a thimble, so I hesitated. For months.

I have now worn out every argument. He has saved enough to buy his own guitar. He has sourced both the equipment and the lessons. He has friends who have been playing for years and he just knows he can catch up in a few weeks.

I instantly learn two things when we enter the music store. I am old and the only discernable difference between these guitars is price. Marc wanders off, pretending he's not with me. A salesboy comes over to help and I quickly lay out the deal.

"My son wants to play guitar."

"Has he ever played before?"

"No, but he played trombone at school this year," I tell him, hoping this will mean something.

Apparently, it means nothing. I grab control of this conversation, as Marc falls in love with a $1,200 guitar.

"Look, find me something cheap and cool looking. He quits everything by Tuesday, but I'm sick of having Mean Mommy stamped on my forehead."

"He would probably be best to start with an acoustic guitar ... " Salesboy grabs one off the wall, something I finally recognize. Marc looks stricken.

"No! I have to have an electric guitar! I found a cheaper one, here."

He grabs a $200 model, which looks very red and very complicated.

"What's wrong with this one? It's supposed to be a good starter model."

I hoist the acoustic one.

"Look at it! No!"

For once, I feel for the kid. He's trying to emulate Eddie Van Halen, not John Denver. He can't afford an amplifier yet, a fact that breaks my heart. We get home and a most helpful neighbour gladly lends him one. We are now ready for not just bad music, but loud bad music.

That night, every kid we know is over to check out the new guitar. Marc knows one chord, which is lodged in my head like a tumour. His friend Nick lives across the street. Nick's dad has a drum kit put away somewhere and they decide to get it set up. Another friend, Neil, is a musical wunderkind and is pressed into service teaching them some basics.

Nick's mom Grace is a close friend and we smile at the impending band taking shape. Her daughter Emily announces she'll play bass. Jackson wants to play keyboards. I suggest he be the manager.

Later that night, Marc comes into the kitchen.

"We're going to get the drums set up at Nick's this weekend," he says.

"Cool. So are you guys going to jam together?" I ask him.

"Nah, we're pretty much going to suck together," he deadpans.

After his first lesson, he races home to show Brad and I his newfound skill.

"So, the drums are at Grace's?" asks Brad.

"Yeah, why?" I reply.

"So they're going to suck over there, right?"

© 2004 Lorraine Summerfield

Lorraine Summerfield writes "Motherlode", which appears in the Hamilton Spectator.

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