On a cool Saturday in October, my family and I roamed Gulou Dongdajie. On this street renown for its music shops, my husband was hopeful we could find Myles a suitable first guitar for his birthday. We hadn’t told our son that was the purpose of the trip, just in case we were unsuccessful. But watching Myles barely suppress a knowing smile, I realized he suspected something.
Had we been in the US, we probably would have gone to the nearest super-sized guitar mart stocked with thousands of instruments.
While the convenience would have made this process much faster and easier, it was a lot more fun to explore Gulou Dongdajie.
However, there was no guarantee we’d be able to find what we wanted on Gulou Dongdajie. As we exited a half-dozen shops each, my husband and I nervously
wondered if we would have to resign ourselves to a well-outfitted but soulless music center back home.
Then we found ourselves in front of Rock Mei Mei, a store that oozed personality – but especially rock ‘n roll. In my mind, I flash forwarded a few years and saw a teenaged Myles trying to impress some girl by boasting that he’d gotten his first guitar at Beijing’s Rock Mei Mei. The swagger with which Future Myles carried himself was more than I could take; I was ready to reconsider in the hopes that my little boy would remain an 8-year-old innocent. However, Myles and his father were already in the store.
Rock Mei Mei did have a smaller electric guitar, which happened to have purple and green flames painted on the body. My husband made sure it played well; Myles tentatively held it as we judged the fit. The awkwardness he showed in that moment was so far removed from Future Myles that I was able to agree to this birthday present.
That night, Myles learned his first chord, G – which he strummed until well past his bedtime. This was followed the next day with a C9. For days, he alternated between G and C9, then added a few more to his repertoire. It wasn’t long before Myles was inspired to write his first song, a rock anthem titled “My Guitar Is on Fire.”
At the end of October, we got to see local band Randy Abel Stable play their unique mix of Americana at the Great Leap Beer Harvest Festival. Changping sorely lacks music venues of any kind, so this was the first time my children had ever seen a live band in China. Brigid responded by dancing non-stop through their sets; Myles was particularly in awe of the performance. After that day, “My Guitar Is on Fire” became a country song. Reassured by this new direction, I forgot any maternal anxiety about his playing guitar.
Recently, he asked me to listen as he practiced “My Guitar Is on Fire.” He hit a chord with a flourish and looked very pleased as it reverberated through his amp. There was a hint of swaggering Future Myles, but at least the only girl he was trying to impress was me. In an instant, he was back to just being my little boy, singing his twangy composition without a hint of irony.