Yesterday, I did something absolutely incredible. I drove a few miles to Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and bought myself a piano! It’s something I’ve contemplated for over a year, since the approach of my 60th birthday. Though I own many instruments (two bass guitars, cello, accordion, baritone ukulele and two wonderful guitars that belonged to Bruce) I’ve been missing the anchor of that one perfect instrument, the one that does everything and takes the least toll on my body.
Piano entered my life in the autumn of 1967, when I was 7 years old. It was the same time my sister, 2 years older than me, started on violin in the grade school orchestra and that is why piano became my fate. Our family had a style of parenting that aimed to keep us both in the same sphere of activities. When she took ballet, for which she had some natural skill and a determination to conquer the form, I, too, was enrolled.
We were really bad at it.
Mom let us quit after two years.
9, Lily and I share unfortunate ballet memories, not traumatic ones, exactly, but definitely an example of how mediocre we can be at something that isn’t our idea to pursue. We can be a little hard-headed that way.
We’re better at piano, though.
For the first two years, anyway.
You might not believe this if you know me only as a highly motivated and self-disciplined adult, but after a couple of years of piano lessons, getting me to practice was like pulling teeth from a gorilla. The first year had gone really well, all the way from a one-octave C Major scale to the performance of “Alpine Yodel” in three keys at the spring recital. But by fifth grade (that’s on your horizon, 9), I was in complete rebellion.
Remember that year we had to stay home from the Memorial Day family cruise because we still had to memorize Mozart’s “Sonata in C” for the recital?
How could I forget, Lily? Mom stayed home with me, of course, presiding over hours of daily practice. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the piece or the composer. I’d purchased the book “Mozart, his greatest PIANO SOLOS” on my own, with money I’d saved up from pulling weeds. I liked playing well enough, I just flat out didn’t want to be in the recital. But there was a rule in our family:
If you start lessons at the beginning of the school year, you have to finish the year and be in the recital.
As it turned out, this is a really good rule, to, in essence, finish what you’ve started. I’m convinced that’s why I ended up with strong self-discipline later in life. And now, after the dust has settled, I’m ready to take up piano again.
Last year getting a piano was an appealing idea. This year, facing the holidays in pandemic times with far fewer options for distracting myself, it seems my best option for retaining holiday mental health. I’ve got lots of my old lesson books, not only classical but jazz and boogie-woogie, too. One I bought later is “Easy Piano Swing Standards.” I could make up a character called the Easy Piano Lady, in tribute to my real-life Great Aunt Gai who used to play right here in Walla Walla at the Elks Lodge and the Eagles.
Red lipstick, gaudy costume jewelry, and you’re there!
Are you going to dye your hair blue, too?
Only if I get really, really good, 9. Maybe this will evolve into a costumed and staged Zoom piano bar evening- –
That sounds just crazy enough to work.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Lily. I haven’t followed through on any of my lock-down music-based threats yet, but this might just be the one- –
Okay, back to the piano I bought yesterday. It’s a Baldwin Acrosonic Spinet, very old school and student-friendly. I’m pretty sure it dates from the 1960s, though I was so excited when I was looking at it I forgot to ask. It has really nice touch and good tone, and (music to my ears) the price includes delivery and the first tuning. It arrives on Sunday.
Just in time for the holidays. Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia and all the rest are going to be different this year, for sure. Time to reinvent, to plan, and to face the long nights with determination, self-discipline and our special guest star: