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Jessie Veeder, Published December 29 2012

Coming Home: Opening a gift of creativity

I opened the lid of that guitar case and quickly closed it to blink once and then again, suddenly very aware of the tears quickly springing at the corners of my eyes. It was Christmas, and on my lap my husband placed an instrument that had been hiding away unnoticed for months as he held on to the secret and waited for the holidays.

I reached up to wipe a stray and unexpected tear and tried again, opening the lid and taking a long look at my new Gibson Dove guitar.

A beautiful Christmas gift.

I ran my hand down the strings stretched along the neck of the instrument then traced the curved body, pausing on the pick guard to admire the beautiful detail of a dove etched in among red and green flowers before wrapping my arms around it and plucking those strings to hear how I might make it sound.

Oh, it’s just a simple instrument, yes; just pieces of wood glued together with precision and strung up with six little wires. You’d think after years of picking those strings and singing songs behind and beside a variety of Taylors and Guilds and Takamines, my reaction to this gift would have been a bit more subdued, a little more gathered.

But my husband placed that instrument in my arms next to a cedar tree lit up with the wonder of the season and the room filled with the memory of my first guitar and how that gift has served me throughout my life.

I didn’t know it when I was 12 years old, tearing off wrapping paper to reveal a black faux leather case, that a gift like this when nurtured and grown might allow me a shot at always having something in my life that was constant and honest and so true to me.

Yes, teach a girl to play or give her some space to teach herself and you give her a chance at finding her own song, stringing her own words together and placing them softly on the top of the notes she learns.

Give a girl a guitar, and she is free to stand center stage, behind the smoke of a campfire, beside a sister or a friend or in the corner of her room quietly strumming and humming and not feeling so alone anymore.

I pulled my new Gibson close to me, ran the pick down the six strings one at a time and I heard my 12-year-old voice softly singing a Stevie Nicks song as she worked out the chords on the pink carpeted floor of her bedroom on a cold winter night.

“You could be my silver spring, blue-green, colors flashin’…”

At 12 years old I’m not sure I knew I wanted a guitar, and last Tuesday I wasn’t expecting another one to show up, make me cry and remind me in the middle of a life filled with imminent deadlines, burned casseroles and closely watched bank accounts what it means to hold a true and encouraging gift in your hands.

Mommas and fathers and grammas and aunts and uncles, I know there were so many things you could buy them. I know there were Barbies and sleds and iPads and Xboxes. I know there was makeup and clothes, Taylor Swift CDs and sparkly things. And girls, I know there were things that you wanted and things you needed and things that will never be yours.

But this Christmas after the wrapping paper was torn from the boxes, the apple pie was finished and the sun sank down below the horizon of your town, I hope there was one gift you didn’t know you wanted that sent you quietly to your room to fill a blank page with color, to create characters for a story, rhyme words in a poem or find the right notes to play.

I hope someone in your life noticed you had something to say and gave you the tools to try to say it. And as the New Year approaches I hope you give yourself the chance to show us how it looks from behind your eyes.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.