He had taken piano lessons for several years but quit because he had reached the age where, in South Carolina in 1969/70, it simply wasn’t cool for a boy to play piano. In the previous place they had lived he had been bullied as a fat, nerdy kid who always got the best grades in the class. Though he wasn’t as fat anymore, he still felt like the fat nerdy kid and wanted to change, and to use the move from Clemson to Greenville to give himself a new start. He was also fascinated with the countercultural movement that was going on in the US at the time, especially the “hippies”, was interested in rock and roll, and wanted to be “cool” instead of the resident nerd. He loved guitar music, so he asked “Santa Claus” (i.e. his parents) for a guitar for Christmas at age 13. Christmas was the only time that such big presents were exchanged in his family.
Although they usually went to his grandmother’s place in the countryside between Charleston and Summerville for Christmas and celebrated with all of the cousins from that side of the family, this time they were at home in Greenville, maybe because some of the presents were a little too big to carry. As they always did Christmas morning at home, they went to the living room before breakfast in pyjamas and bathrobes to see what “Santa Claus” (they were all too old to believe, but it was still a tongue in cheek ritual to get something from Santa Claus) had left them next to the tree. His present from “Santa Claus” was a guitar, a spruce-colored Höfner western style acoustic that the music store had recommended to his parents, sitting unwrapped in its case in front of the brightly decorated Christmas tree. He was thrilled, even though he knew that requests to “Santa Claus” that were within reason were always granted; having it in his hands was different. After fetching their stockings from the shelf above the chimney and checking the contents of fruit and candy (and for him, some guitar picks!) and unwrapping the presents from each other, it was time to leave the presents behind and have their traditional Christmas breakfast together as a family: bacon, eggs and grits and a sweet coffee cake baked in a roll that was called “Stollen” in a recipe his mom had found in the paper one year. After breakfast he couldn’t wait to get back to the guitar and thrash about with the two chords he had learned from friends. He was happy, and grateful that his parents were willing to help him fulfill his dream of playing guitar. The strings hurt his uncalloused fingers but he didn’t care. He was going to be a cool guitar player! He spent most of the day messing around with the guitar, interrupted only when it was time for family Christmas dinner.