Mom was right; I’m 58 and wish I could play the piano
A piano sits in my den. A real one. It hasn’t been tuned in at least 40 years and six moves. It was Kathy’s, and I married into it, so to speak. Lately, I catch myself looking at it, wishing it would come to life and make music.
Mom taught piano lessons, and many of my classmates came to the studio she had downstairs. My older sister, Linda, was an extraordinary musician and still is. Mom sent me to her best friend, Myrtle Steele, for lessons. I didn’t want to go, and I didn’t practice. Linda’s musician friends from Woodlawn and Birmingham Southern came around a lot. Some played piano, some sang, some played other instruments. There was everything from classical to Broadway to folk to barbershop. Not much jazz. Not in Mom’s house — unless you wanted a dirty look.
I loved all the music, but I didn’t make much of it. Mom died. My sister married and moved away. The two pianos eventually got sold, and we moved to a small house in Roebuck. Those who brought that wonderful music into our home still weave in and out of my life. A surprising number — including some of Mom’s pupils — popped up as Facebook friends. Maybe they’ll read this and be glad they grasped the gift that slipped away from me.
In the 1960s and 1970s, there were Kimball pianos everywhere. Kimball owned thousands of acres of hardwood forest to make sure they always had plenty of wood with which to make them. A few years ago, I helped a client sell $25 million worth of that land in Kentucky and Indiana. Kimball didn’t need it any more. The “wood piano” business died years ago, and Kimball had long since quit making them, focusing instead on office furniture — mostly from synthetic materials.
Which makes that neglected piano in the den seem like a treasure. It has a soul – strings that vibrate, and real wood to process and amplify the sound without electricity. It mirrors the priceless gift I rejected years ago, when my family begged me to practice. Mom and Mrs. Steele kept saying I’d wish someday that I’d listened. For a lot of reasons that seem pointless now, I just didn’t.
We were sitting in church this morning waiting on the service to start, and the little wind ensemble — in which I used to play trumpet — was playing. Kathy asked, “do you miss it.”
Yes, I miss making music. So what if I tried to take it up again? I blurted out something that caught me by surprise:
“No, if I were going to go down that road again, it’d be the piano.”
I have no idea where that came from. I know it’s too late.
I’d swear I can practically hear Mom and Mrs. Steele laughing all the way from heaven at the very thought of it. At my age. Silly, and I know it won’t happen.
And yet, that old piano stares across the room. Maybe I should at least hire a tuner, just in case.