Fay Greenwald

Olympia High School

2022 Scholarship Winner
Second Place

When my father dies, I know I won’t be able to pack up his guitars. The yellow Stratocaster, well-worn, with the home-brew label on the back featuring my baby face smeared with food; the mahogany Gibson, sleek and soft from care and use. Even the barely played black bass guitar, a monument to the range and strength of his skill, will bring tears to my eyes. No, when he leaves this world, his guitars will be too much to bear.
Home is Papa’s music. Through two states, five cities and six houses, he’s remained a constant. Most nights, whether in a Cleveland two-story, Olympia townhouse or Elma cottage, he can be found on the couch, hand strumming silver strings, foot tapping out rhythm, face contorted in passionate concentration. I often find myself yelling down hallways or up stairs, asking him to “turn it down!” as he plays along to powerfully loud rock ballads. In my home, it’s common to walk into the bathroom with the intention of using it to find Papa standing in front of the mirror watching himself play, or for your alone time to be noisily invaded by a mischievous man and his guitar, deaf to your laughing protests.
Every house that I have ever called home has been touched by his song. His music is the sound that brings warm hugs and goofy jokes; it fed and bathed and held me for so many years with all the tender love a parent can feel for a child. His music welcomes me home each night, feeds me a hot meal, and allows me to sleep safely, no matter the state or house or city. With him, with my parents, I know that I am loved.
Home is love. It’s the sort of love that soothes with soft lullabies, sweetness that fills the air; the love that sings in stories and memories. When I move away and live on my own for the first time, I know I will still hear love’s care. I know that love will ask me if I’m eating well every week; that love will send presents and cards and photos to make sure I’m never as far away as I may feel. I know that love will be just a phone call away until I can build a home of my own.
It is true that when my father dies I will not be able to bear the thought of the life he left behind, or the burden of all that I could never show or tell or give him. But, though it will be heavy, I know I will carry the weight. Wherever I make my home, I know there will be his beloved guitars– sitting not in storage but out on display, just like they’ve always been. I know that whenever I look at or touch or hold those beautiful, well-worn instruments, Papa will be with me. I will be safe, I will be loved, and I will be home.