For one Florida woman, getting the bizarre news that a family more than 1,000 miles away in Minnesota had found her childhood guitar from the late 1970s would soon become music to her ears.
“In the middle of summer I got this phone call from a man in Austin, Minnesota,” Susan Shane-Linder, of Boca Raton, told ABC News. “He said, ‘My father bought this. It’s an Alhambra SA guitar and it’s made in Spain. Is it yours?’”
At first, Shane-Linder was skeptical. She is a popular children’s recording artist, singer, songwriter and teacher in Florida and had no idea who this mysterious man was. She did, however, vividly remember that yes, her very first guitar she ever owned in the 1970s was an Alhambra SA.
“I said, ‘Can you send me a picture because I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” she said of the man she’s now befriended, Lonnie Arndt. “I’m kind of thinking, ‘Who’s this guy on the other end of the line here?’ I didn’t really answer him at first, but he sends me a photo and told me that stamped inside the guitar was a label with my maiden name.”
Sure enough, it was the musician’s first guitar as child. She was floored.
“I got it for my fifth or sixth birthday,” Shane-Linder, 51, explained. “I played it every day, morning, noon and night. I would sit in the living room and do concerts for the family.”
She also remembers the exact moment she emblazoned the guitar with her name.
“I was going to camp and we got these rubber stampers to label everything,” she recalled. “I was taking my guitar and I didn’t want it to get lost so I put a piece of tape inside with my name Susan Shane.”
But how the instrument ventured from Florida, where she’s lived all her life, to Minnesota, being played by Lonnie Arndt’s children after finding it tucked away in their basement, is still a mystery.
“My father, Larry Arndt, found Susan's guitar at the local Salvation Army a few years prior (He's pretty sure at least, his memory isn't the greatest),” Arndt, 35, wrote to ABC News. “He noticed it was old and heavily used, thought it would make for a perfect ‘kid guitar’ for his grandchildren. Turns out, they loved playing with it.”
The odd part is that Shane-Linder doesn’t ever remember losing or getting rid of the guitar, she just doesn’t have any recollection as to what happened to it at all once her high school music teacher asked her to purchase a new one.
“The director said, ‘You can’t play that nylon-stringed guitar. You have to get a real guitar,” she remembers. “It just doesn’t have the strength and power that a steel-stringed guitar has.’”
Shane-Linder bought her new guitar in 1979 for the start of tenth grade, and just like any other childhood toy that she once loved, placed her old one aside.
Fast forward to 2015, when Arndt was checking on his son who was playing with Shane-Linder’s guitar, one of his three children who have all played with the instrument for the past seven years.
“For whatever reason, I looked at it closer than normally,” he said. “I just then noticed the piece of masking tape on the inside stamped ‘Susan Shane’ in black ink. The tape was very old. It was extremely dry and discolored.”
Out of curiosity, he googled her name and the first image he found was one of her musician album cover photos from her website.
“I thought it was too ironic, had to be her,” he said. “If it was her guitar, I was curious how it made its way to Minnesota from Florida. The more we communicated over email, the more I knew I had to return it to her. It just felt like the right thing to do.”
So that’s exactly what he and his family did, although Arndt’s oldest daughter, 7-year-old Gracie, “was hesitant at first,” he said, because “she likes to collect ‘treasures.’”
“She warmed up to the thought the more we talked about it,” Arndt said. “Once I figured out how to ship it, we all sat down around the kitchen table and made the cards. I visited a cousin's local music store to get an actual guitar-sized box.”
And off the guitar went, shipped home to its original owner 36 years later, with handwritten cards and drawings from Arndt’s children enclosed.
“Attached were these two envelopes that just took my breath away,” Shane-Linder said of the meaningful package in the mail. “I teach children on a daily basis and it was just beautiful that this is what they wanted for me. The two beautiful little notes with the picture.”
She innocently posted the photos of her returned instrument to Facebook, where they started going viral.
“I am in tears. This is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me,” she wrote on the social media site, thanking Arndt and his family.
Of course Shane-Linder is curious about the guitar’s travels for the past three decades, “but more than anything,” she said, “This pay it forward feeling, their generosity to return this to me and be a part of the this story, it just took my breath away.”
“I'm very happy for her,” Arndt replied. “Glad my family could give her such a precious and unlikely gift. We're still in shock, disbelief over how amazing this all is.”
Shane-Linder said her parents have no idea how the guitar could’ve ended up in Minnesota either, but have enjoyed this magical homecoming for her as well.
“If that guitar could talk it could tell us of its adventure,” she said, “I wonder what it’s been through, where has it been. Who played it? It could have belonged to Madonna. Who knows who could’ve owned that guitar. But the fact my name was in it and it ended up back in my hands, and now I’ve made music my profession, that’s just amazing.”