Let’s think back. It’s February 2012, Andrew’s 30th Birthday. We had recently been shopping in a music store, and he had found exactly the thing he wanted to commemorate that moment in time when you can start telling all the kids to get off your lawn.
He’d found a guitar. I don’t know what motivated his new found desire for a guitar. He did not know how to play the guitar. Maybe it was my own recent acquisition of Ella, my piano, and he wanted to start a family band. Whatever it was, all he wanted for his birthday was that guitar. And, so it was. Who am I to deny him the pleasure of learning a musical art?
But, as adult life tends to be, we were busy. He’d practice 4 days of 7, but then work would get busy and he’d lay off. His fingers would never quite get used to playing the strings. In his heart, he’d tell himself “as soon as we are off sailing, I’ll have all the time in the world to learn the guitar.” I joined him in these fantasies, indeed, I had always wanted to learn a portable instrument. I would learn the guitar, too. As we cast off, we even had a friend bring us a gift of a book to help us learn to play the guitar. With all the spare time we would inevitably enjoy on a 22 day passage, we would be virtuosos by the time we returned!
So, we packed up the guitar in its giant hard case and nestled it into Sonrisa’s V-berth. Understandably, we spent the first passages getting our sea legs: getting use to motion and watch schedule, the seasickness, the anxiety, the part failures, the doldrums, blustery weather, calms…we didn’t pull the guitar out once. We had no time to learn the guitar in Mexcio or the Galapagos – we had things to see! Finally, on our crossing from Galapagos to the Marquesas, we each played exactly three notes on that guitar before it was highly unpleasant from the strings on our fingers and we started to get seasick again.
The guitar went back in its case, and got shoved into the shower for storage along with the “Bag Bag” - a duffel bag filled with nothing but other duffel bags and canvas grocery totes. There it stayed for the duration of our cruising life all the way through the South Pacific. We tried to sell it to a kid in Tonga who already had a stable of guitars and could surely use one more. Great deal! We never closed. In Papua New Guinea, our friend Jake played the guitar and sang for us. You’d think it would have occurred to us to just leave it with him. But, we didn’t think of this solution at the time and I don’t think it will be very easy to ship it to him. Over and over again, we try to find opportunities to off load this guitar, but when we remember to think of it we can’t find any takers. We found a Captain on a super yacht who seemed like he might be interested, but when he learned it was a Birthday gift from Andrew’s wife the Captain refused to accept the guitar, insisting Andrew should just learn to play it.
“Really, I don’t mind. In fact, it’s annoying the hell out of me, too. Just take it!” I said.
Every once in a while, we will be invited to a singalong or other cruiser gig in which I get stars in my eyes about the romance of plucking away at the guitar on deck while enjoying a soft breeze and a canopy of stars. I make one minor effort at tuning the damn thing and the string snaps. Back in the case, back in the shower it goes. It was right after Thanksgiving this year that I decided to give it another try. I am learning the guitar, and that is that.
So, Andrew watches me wrestle the guitar out of its spot each night, moving ever so slowly, but inevitably banging it against all manner of sailboat protrusions. It’s a nice guitar, I really wish Sonrisa didn’t insist on giving it Boat Kisses (bumps, bruises, knicks, cuts, etc). And this is where we land in the saga of the guitar, as Christmas closed in on me once more.
After completing a round of grocery shopping to supply Sonrisa with the necessary specialty items to cook an acceptable Christmas dinner and Christmas Morning Brunch, we moved anchorages again. The weather was blowing a stink from the North East, so we needed a more protected spot. There, we found a beach, with delicious food a great spot for watching sunset, and Big Buddha looking down on us from across the way.
Anchored next door are the closest thing you get to Sailing Celebrities: people whose advice and sailing trips we’ve been following on Sail South East Asia Facebook Page for months. We paddle over to say hello and meet their three kitties, the most friendly of which is named Tim. “Hello, are you Tiny Tim?” I ask him, since I’m mid-way through my annual reading of Charles Dickens, The Christmas Carol. Andrew gives Tim a scratch behind the ears, and when I see the two of them in context, I realize Tim The Cat is anything but Tiny.
Tim and his brothers even have their own passports - with official stamps and all.
The Captain of this ship is well experienced in all the shops about town in which one might be able to find this spare part or the other. So, over the next couple of days, he and Andrew buzz back and forth the mornings together. This leaves me happily updating the blog, but otherwise without transportation to do what I consider to be most imperative this time of year: Christmas Shopping. As the morning of December 22rd dawned, I declared Santa’s Elf can’t put it off any longer. She must go shopping.
As The Elf steps into Grin’s hull, Andrew follows close behind. “What are you doing?” I ask.
“We’re going shopping aren’t we?”
“No, I’m going shopping.”
“Well, I need to go, too. I have some parts and pieces I need to buy for spares.”
I sigh and relent. I’ll just have to shake him at some point. We walk into town and arrive at the first stop – a hardware store. We make a circuit trying to find the things he wants, and me trying to locate a few fun items that Santa put on his Elf’s To Do List. No luck.
“I’m going to see if I can find another store.” I say, but Andrew follows me out.
“It’s okay, I’m done here.”
“I’m trying to shop for Christmas.” This does nothing to dissuade him. He trails me, and trails me.
We walk through a “random home goods/stationary store” where we come upon a series of musical instruments. I tap my hands on a set of bongos and listen to their hollow thud as I wait for Andrew to peruse an aisle where he hopes to locate a plastic thingamawatt that might help him repair a broken piece on Grin. “Sweet!” I say, “I want some bongos.”
“Yeah, they can go next to the guitar.” Andrew says. Snark, snark, snark!
Next, Andrew diverts me four blocks that-a-way to the Makro grocery store. “What are we doing?” I ask.
“You have to see the mushroom aisle!” At this point, I suspect he is trying to sabotage my Christmas efforts.
I know what Andrew really wants this year and it’s some new swimming fins. We’ve walked past several dive shops with brightly colored fins hanging in the windows, but all my subtle attempts at directing Andrew to go anywhere else but where he is continue to fail. I look longingly into the buildings I know beckon with crisp air conditioning and mountains of scuba gear for the taking. If I could just slip in there for a second… No such luck. I make a move to pretend like I am going in to look for fins for myself (mine are the pair that are actually broken!), but Andrew tells me “Don’t be ridiculous: You can’t buy yourself fins right before Christmas!”
I am sweaty, it’s so hot, I am very thirsty, and we’ve been dodging sketchy looking power lines dangling at eye level all day. At this point, I am tired of shopping. “Well…..this is my last shopping day before Christmas…do YOU want to be Santa’s Elf over there…while I play Santa’s Elf over here???”
“No, the store is closing. It’s actually closed already.” He tells me.
Yeah, it closes at 2:30 on Saturdays.
WHAT HAVE WE BEEN DOING ALL DAY!? I yank up my backpack I’d laid on the floor, thank the store clerk, and apologize for keeping him over time. How am I supposed to play Christmas Elf with Andrew following me around like a butt-boil?
I’m not, I guess. I am not a Christmas Elf this year.
Maybe I can go shopping tomorrow? But, we are supposed to be cooking tomorrow. I list all the food items we are planning to make: quiche muffins, cookies, bread, pie…no time to shop tomorrow. I am somber as I take in the reality that there is no Amazon Prime to save me. My mood swings between belligerent and sour as we bounce the half hour from the city wharf to our anchorage. I have failed. I am a Christmas Elf Failure.
I hate failure.
To be continued…
I promise the story about the guitar will come full circle.