When I was very little, a neighbor died and gave us a piano. My mother was the only person she knew who played, and so she made a specific bequest in her will. I took to it like a duck to water, and it wasn't long until my father had to draw a line in the sand: Either that kid gets lessons or I get out the chainsaw.
And so began my first passion: music. We had that piano until I was well into college, and I took fourteen years of lessons on it. I love to play. I'm not a concert-level pianist, I lack the true gift for that, but I can sight read like a house on fire and I can sing. When horse therapy isn't possible due to weather or timing, music therapy is where I turn to ease my troubled soul.
As a kid whenever we had a dinner party my mom would sit me down at the piano and I would play all of our favorites out of a big hardbound book of standards. I knew most of the popular songs from the first and second World Wars and every hymn in the Episcopal hymnal. Everyone would sing along, and no evening was complete without a round of When Irish Eyes are Smiling, during which my mother would inevitably cry as it is the song that reminds her most of my grandpa who died when I was seven.
There has always been a piano. Until last year. When my divorce was final, my ex got the piano we'd been given by his parents. It was from his family, so it was only fair, but it was painful for me as I was the only person who for a long time ever played it. When he finally arranged to pick up the household furnishings that were his, the one thing I hated to see go was that piano. Christmas last year was the first time in more than 40 years I didn't have a piano to play and sing Christmas carols with. Oh, I made do with my guitar, but it really wasn't the same.
A home just isn't home to me when it doesn't have a piano.
A few months ago I found an old Vose & Sons cabinet grand on craigslist. Over 1,000 pounds, with a rosewood cabinet and original ivory keys, it had been in the owner's family since the day it came new off a Boston showroom floor in 1890. It hadn't been tuned in nearly two decades so it was hard to tell if it was going to be able to be put into playing shape, but he only wanted $350 for it and so we brought it home. It cost more than twice that much to have it moved to our house and to have it repaired and tuned. It had a cracked base stringboard, a broken string or two, and all of the pegs needed to be reset and glued in so they would hold tune, but it was worth every penny. Once it was repaired and set back on its feet, the beautiful tones it produces told us we had made a good choice. Its holding pitch and with those long strings I can really crank up the v0lume when I need to blow off steam or raise the roof with joy.
Our piano is worth so much more to me than just the cost of buying and repairing it. Like my horses, piano is one of the things that I do that makes me feel like my puzzle piece is in the right place. We make a lot of music in my house, and it is time for the torch to be passed to the next generation.
My kids got their first piano lessons yesterday. Its hard to put words to all that I was feeling and thinking of as they each sat at the piano and learned to find Middle C, to identify first through fifth fingers on each hand and to start practicing their first scales. Amazon Girl plays her scales in a measured temp, wishing to get each note perfectly. Race Car Man wants to be fast when he has it right and asks many questions about how the keys and the hammers and the felt and the strings work. They both picked up on the basics pretty quickly.
I am filled with pride, wistfulness, deep joy, a sense that everything is right with the world.
We have a piano. And we are playing it.
P.S. The photo is of a piano at the recording studio where SG laid tracks for his song. Mine is prettier.