It started out as a dream. It almost always starts out with a dream that results in me either lying lazily in bed reflecting upon it or sitting up straight to execute it.
In this dream, I was in the music store searching for two piano books: “Les Miserables” and a red piano book that taught the very beginner basics of piano. When I finally found them, I delivered them to my friend with a request: “Please teach me the piano.”
This was one of the execution dreams.
I think the piano was a somewhat symbol of my biological mother—she was the one who forced me to learn how to play the piano at 7-years-old, but more so for the final recital where I remember feeling pretty for the first time in my life in a rich royal purple velvet dress and my hair wove tightly in two braids. I was truly a terrible piano student! Now, I’m trying to make up for this. I don’t know how my piano teacher put up with me as the bad piano child student who never paid attention or practiced, fidgeted relentlessly, and rolled my eyes that this must just be a waste of my time.
Once I placed my ten fingers on the keys gently, I thought and hoped everything, something, or maybe just anything would come back to me. Nothing. Not a note. Not a chord. My fingers were clumsy and nearly fearful of the 88 black and white keys. Nonetheless, I was invigorated and eager to learn. To learn, I needed to practice. To practice, I needed a piano.
Apparently, finding a piano to play and practice on was harder than I could have ever imagined. Public libraries rejected me. Nursing homes didn’t call me back. Churches were up in the air. All because of possible liability and property damage.
I was begging anyone to practice on a piano, and the mass majority of responses were: “You are not allowed to practice on our baby grand or public piano that is only meant for public performances.”
I sputtered, “But, I don’t need to practice on a fancy piano. I’ll practice on any piano that has 88 keys!”
A music conservatory finally came through with allowing me to rent the space with a piano in it for $25 per hour, splitting it a half hour each session. Melodious music embraced me as soon as I entered. One of the first questions I was asked once I was told which room I could practice in was: “Do you need an instructor at all?”
“No, I have a great instructor.”
The woman looked dubiously at me, “Does she have a Masters degree?”
I was stunned and immediately said, “Yes.”
Marching up to the rented room to meet my first piano to practice on that ended up being a “Steinway,” I shook my head in confusion wondering: “What’s with all this needing to practice on a baby grand piano and the instructor mandated to have a Masters? All I want is a piano to practice on! I’m grateful for whatever I can get.”
My determination and pain-in-the-ass persistence finally resulted in playing and practicing on four completely different pianos this past week. One in the plush and regal music conservatory with the sounds of virtuosos in the making. Two pianos at two of my friends’ homes. All three pianos were cared for a maintained meticulously with being tuned at least twice a month (or more) and the cover open to reveal intricate parts that released music. Then, finally, I received permission from one of the local churches to practice on one of their supposedly second rate pianos after I confirmed with her, “I don’t need to practice on your baby grand piano! I just need to practice on a piano! Anything! I’m grateful for anything!”
Finding this piano was half the battle. When I entered the room, there was no piano to be found. Only rounded tables and matching beige chairs to follow. I searched everywhere and, finally, the sunlight streaming through the window caught on a cloth covering what had to be the body of a piano. I had almost given up finding it because it was so tucked away in seclusion.
When I removed the sheet, this dusty and old piano greeted me. It had clearly been abandoned and left unmaintained and uncared for. To most, it probably would have been considered an eyesore. To me, it was the most beautiful piano I could have ever seen, and I couldn’t be more thankful that I was going to be the one to try to give it love to make music once again.
When I gently pressed on the keys, they stuck and required more exertion from me. Memories flooded back when I was a little girl that did not care or appreciate learning how to play the piano, or my piano instructor. I had taken all of this for granted as a child and now this was all I wanted as an adult. When do we gain appreciation and gratitude? Is it only when we no longer have it? Is it that awareness of appreciation and gratitude are not realized until we are adults?
I felt a sharp sadness for this pitiful piano that had been bereft of any love and music released from it for who knows how long? What songs had this piano played? When was the last time music came from it? Who had stroked and pressed the keys only to finally push it to the corner, forgotten and uncared for?
I think there are certain things, times, and moments we appreciate and value more when we are older than younger and when we no longer have it or can no longer get it back. Was there something from your childhood you did not care for that, most likely, your parents forced you to do that you wished to make up for it as an adult? What have you taken for granted and appreciated even more after it was gone and as an adult rather than a child?
I do not know how long I stayed in this room by myself. But, I wasn’t alone. I was with this abandoned piano. But, it was not to be abandoned anymore. I was a beginner. This piano was advanced. We would find a way to make music together for as long we could make it.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,