My memory isn't the greatest, I'll acknowledge, but my first guitar is not going to be forgotten any time soon. I don't have any pictures of it, or of me playing it, no known recordings of its tone exist, and the guitar itself was long since disposed of, but the memory is still fresh with me, and I plan to keep that for a long, long time.
Truth is, I can't even remember if I got that guitar for my birthday or Christmas or both. (They're only a day apart, so the lines get a little blurry sometimes.) What I distinctly recall is my sister and late brother-in-law bringing a nylon-string guitar through the front door and handing it to me. You might say a few things changed that day.
The brand was nothing to speak of - just a cheap Chinese imported guitar. It took an old guy at church with some tools and know-how to make it even nearly acceptably playable, and even at that, it was still a task to play, and a chore to hear. Mr. Virtue showed me how to get started with my first few chords, beginning with C, then G, and on we went with all the necessary lessons. By the time barre chords came around, he shook his head and said, "Good luck!", but we found a way to make it work on that mile-wide, iron-flat fretboard anyway.
That gut-string guitar stayed with me until the summer Dan wanted to borrow it, and decided it was too humble to continue being played. Without my permission, he tossed the guitar in a dumpster, and left me with pretty much nothing. Oh well. It was time to move on to better tools by that point, and on we went to the next axe. I missed it for a while until I got a good feel for what a better guitar actually felt like, and never looked back from there.
Is there some sentimentality left for that old Chinese piece? I suppose so, but it served its purpose well. I learned my notes, scales, chords, and the basics on it, and if I could play on that thing, I could play on anything. It also taught me a good lesson that I use with my students today - that a cheap guitar can be a frustration to a student. If it wasn't for Mr. Virtue and his patience, repair knowledge, and abilities, I probably would have quit playing guitar before I really got started. To this day I'm glad for someone who put in the time, care, and energy to pass along his passion for playing guitar. My sentiments aren't for the guitar itself, but instead for the experience.
The guitar is long gone, and several others have come and gone since. Not being a collector, I'm pretty well set on the four that I own and gig regularly, and perhaps the only one I really miss is the Guild, but that's another story. What it really boils down to is an appreciation for what you have when you have it. Whether it is a guitar or other piece of gear, a person or relationship, or anything else, there is no guarantee of how long we will hold on to anything we have. Appreciate it, learn from it, and do your best to be your best, and although loss might be sorrowful, it will not be in vain. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so wrap your arms (or fingers) around today. It's well worth appreciating.
Don't forget... you are important.