Mom and Dad’s Old Piano
I decided this morning that I’m going to start learning to play the piano. I took non-traditional lessons for a year or so when I was ten, and all that remains in my repertoire is a two-handed rendition of Twinkle Twinkle. Thankfully this is a favorite of the Munchkin’s, and it seems to bring her endless joy when Mommy sits down at the keys.
Before I start with how I came to have a piano in the first place, I guess I should explain why I’ve had this sudden stroke of musical inspiration. I’ve just about finished reading Jenna Woginrich’s book Made From Scratch. Near the end she talks about her early journey into learning the dulcimer and fiddle, and her love of mountain music and bluegrass. While I truly appreciate these for what they are as an art and a piece of history, bluegrass doesn’t quite light my fire. But the sheer joy and passion that Jenna seems to have for this music pointed out something that has been lacking in my life. If you’ve ever imagined a soundtrack to your life, a melody translated from your soul, mine would be played by a piano. Okay, as a kid I really wanted to play the violin, but the ‘rents weren’t going to fork out the extra cash for an instrument and we already had the piano. But sometimes the perfect things for us are not picked by ourselves, but by someone else. Which brings me back to how and why I have a piano, because let’s face it, they aren’t the kind of thing you can run to Wal-Mart for in a pinch.
It is a sort-of early inheritance. The piano entered our family around 1971 or 1972, as an anniversary present from my father to my mother. They had only been married for a year or two, were probably close to broke, and my brother was still an infant. My father adored my mother, and if he thought something would make her happy, he found a way to get it for her. God knows how long he made payments on it.
It is not anything grand. It is a Baldwin console from the early ’70’s. The hardware has been replaced from being moved from Texas to California, and back to Texas. I think it may have spent time in Mechanicsville, Pennsylvania and Metairie, Louisiana in its early years. The music stand is loose, and the screw holes are stripped, so other than going for some slightly larger screws, I’m not sure how to fix that. It’s probably out of tune from being moved around. I think the last time it was tuned was around 1996 when we lived in California.
I have wonderful memories of my mother sitting at the keys, playing melodies such as Mighty Lak a Rose, Buttons and Bows and Shrimp Boats. She would play The Spinning Song and What’s More Fun Than a Picnic Party endlessly for me as a child. She taught herself how to play, with minimal mentoring from an older sister. I know if she can do it, I can do it, too. Me and all the free teaching aids on the internet.
It’s not just the need to put music back in my life. It’s not the pursuit to always learn something new. It’s keeping a memory alive and doing some justice to something that meant so much to my father. You see, the man who gave my mother that not-so-special piano because he loved her so much, died in 1996. The last year it was tuned.
Mom passed the piano to me and my husband in the first years of our marriage because, she said, he loves me so much.