So, I promised to tell you about my love of the piano.
It started when I was a child. My paternal Grandfather, who I called Papa, was quite gifted on the piano. In fact, there didn't seem to be anything with keys (piano, organ, accordian, squeeze box, etc) that he couldn't play. He played the organ for the Catholic church in our small town and I would tag along to choir practices. Sometimes I'd crawl under his organ bench and instead of using the foot pedals he'd point with his toes and I'd play them. It was such a thrill for me! (And now, looking back, I realize how much that said about his talent that he could point enough in advance for a small child--4 or 5--to reach and press and have the music sound right). My parents weren't religious, but I would often go to mass with my grandparents. The music (and the little treat I'd get if I could sit without squirming) was worth it.
We didn't have much money growing up; enough to see to our needs but most clothes were second-hand and any kind of lessons or teams were almost out of the question (Somewhere in there, for about a year, there were horseback riding lessons. I don't know how they managed it, but it was the thrill of my life for years). I was persistant in my demands for piano lessons though, and by the time I was 7ish my parents decided to take me seriously. They convinced Papa to teach me, even though he'd never really taken on students. I used to bite my nails and he wouldn't take me on until I stopped the "filthy habit" and I did--almost overnight (up until then we had tried almost everything and I hadn't been able to stop). I showed up for my first lesson filled with excitement. Papa sat me at the keys and played a little riff, then said "Now play that back to me". I couldn't. Just could not. He said, "Let me see your fingers." I thought he was going to check my (now perfect) fingernails. "Fat, stubby little fingers", he said. "You'll never play a note. I'm not wasting my time here. Go get a treat from your Grandma in the kitchen".
I never said another word to my parents about wanting to play the piano.*
I still loved the piano though. I would find CBC radio and listen for piano sonatas. I would sit as close to the piano as possible at school (you can feel the vibrations if you're close enough). Eventually, I became good friends with Audrey Parr. As our friendship grew, so did the number of times I could be found at the Parrs'. One day I came over after school to find we'd both forgotten about her piano lessons. No problem, I would do my homework while she had her lesson, and then we could play for a bit. I didn't get much homework done, but I eavesdropped like mad on her piano lesson, trying in vain to unlock the mysteries of the keyboard. I spent a lot of time with the Parrs over the years. I learned that other people listened to CBC Radio (imagine!) and that music could be enjoyed and celebrated and shared. I started going to church with them (a story for another day) and loved singing in the choir there when I could. I also was around often enough when Audrey had to practice to get her to show me a few things on the piano. That old love hadn't gone away at all (but no talent had suddenly sprung up overnight either). Mr. Parr managed to get me into school band (I realize now they must have paid for it. I don't think I knew it back then. I assumed he'd called in a couple of favours, since he was a teacher.) and I threw myself into learning to read music and playing the clarinet (later the saxophone).
There was another family I was crazy about, and that was the Grigg family. They, too, loved music and the mom (my other mom) was an amazing pianist. We would have family sing-alongs that had me floating somewhere above Cloud 9. I became a fixture in their home and really considered myself part of the family. I loved visiting with anyone, but I also would come over just to be in the house and to visit the piano. Sometimes, while everyone was off doing other things, I would sit at the piano for a couple of hours and try to noodle out favourite tunes to myself. I actually got pretty good at both reading music and playing one handed. And somewhere in my by-then-adolescent-mind something clicked. This is happiness I would think to myself. Surrounded by people I loved, warm and secure and noodling the keys, knowing that at any moment someone would come by and smile, or stop to visit, or even join in. This is what I wanted my life to be when I grew up. I would write papers over there (because they had a computer and it trumped our typewriter) and loved that I could sit at the piano when I needed a break. I just enjoyed knowing it was there. Someday, I'd think. Someday.
A friend of my mom's started taking a "teach yourself piano" correspondance course and I poured over her materials, but with nothing to practice on, I let it slide. I changed highschools senior year and one of my new friends was planning to become a piano teacher. I asked him to teach me a bit, and he did until he realized I'd (again) have no place or time to practice. He confined himself to showing off some of his better pieces. And you know what? I didn't mind, because I loved sitting and listening to the piano THAT MUCH.
I thought about taking piano lessons in university, but wasn't sure how I'd find time to practice. I promised myself that someday I'd be done school. I'd have a place of my own and I'd take lessons and practice at least an hour a day.
I got married and we moved into a tiny apartment. No room for a piano. We moved into a house and had a baby. Practice? Not. But I started looking for a good deal on a piano anyway. As soon as we built the new house I was seriously on the hunt. A friend at church got a piano at auction for only a couple hundred dollars. I almost wept. I asked her to keep her eyes open in case that deal came by again. It's been a couple years since that, and now different friends ask if we want their old piano. For free. Because otherwise they'll find someone else or use if for firewood (sob). It will need to be moved, and tuned, and even refinished at some point (which is not free, but honestly, wouldn't we have to pay for those things with any piano we found?), but there will be a piano.
In my house.
That I could play. Any time. I could even take lessons. My kids could take lessons.
Maybe, in the somewhat distant future, there could be a totally spontanious sing along.
It's my greatest dream.
You can see why I might be a little excited.
*you may think this was terribly cruel, but it was simply ignorant. the man was self-taught and amazingly gifted. he had learned how to read music but also played anything by ear after hearing it once. he didn't understand why i couldn't. it makes me a little sad for him now.