We have a piano in our house. It is nothing special, and for years it sat there doing nothing. Our current house has an awkward living room/dining room, and the piano monopolized important, functional space that we could have used for a sofa, or a couple of easy chairs, or a desk, but no. It’s where the piano lived and monopolized the entire room. Picture an upright that was three DIY stains of mahogany past ugly, out of tune, and an all around eyesore. That was the piano.
People would ask who played the piano, when they stopped by. No one plays. I’d tried to take lessons years ago, but they didn’t stick. I asked my daughter if she wanted to learn. At the time she was more interested in the flute/recorder.
The piano has moved to three different houses with us, and one December, when pandemic life was getting the better of me, I painted it green. The white and black keys and coat of green chalk paint put me in mind of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It was a much more cheerful looking box that sat in our house, but it was still just a box.
“Babe. Let’s get rid of it. It doesn’t make sense to have it in our house.” My husband had a point, but I was emotionally attached. “Why? No one plays.” He argued.
I cut my musical teeth on the violin as a kid. My husband played the trumpet in band growing up. Both of us were never very good. As an adult, I took violin lessons when I lived in a town that had a teacher (not all of them do), and made progress and had some good times in community orchestra (also had some really NOT good times in community orchestra). Our experience was that music is hard. Reading music is hard. Playing music is hard. It can be rewarding, but darn if dyslexia doesn’t make it nearly impossible.
My kids have dyslexia and something called CAPD–sound doesn’t always synch in their ears at the same time. Band for my daughter proved to be excruciating, and after those diagnoses were known, we decided that music as an elective wasn’t the route our kids were going to take in school. In fact, maybe music was just not a route our kids were going to take period.
Still, I was attached to the piano that no one played. Well that wasn’t true. My nieces would play the piano when they came to visit. One of my nieces is an honest to goodness prodigy, and she loved the color of my piano. But I don’t see my nieces nearly as often as I’d like. The piano continued to sit there.
So this summer… We took our kiddos to their first concerts (not orchestra or symphony–proper rock concerts). Our son’s first concert was Fall Out Boy at Fiddler’s Green. Our daughter’s first concert was Taylor Swift at Empower Field. And then, to end out the summer, all four of us went to see Weezer last week at Fiddler’s Green.
We had a blast. I think these concerts have become a core memory for our kids. They definitely have become a core memory for me (Taylor was my first stadium concert too. Weezer is my husband’s favorite band and a longstanding favorite of mine). And after those concerts, my kiddos were more interested in the ukulele hanging on the wall and the piano that was sitting there. So after seeing my nieces who were visiting play their songs, and seeing once again how quickly a person can make actual, honest to goodness music on a piano, I asked a friend to recommend music teachers for my kids. My daughter’s schedule is packed with extracurriculars, but my son could stand to pick something up.
He started piano through a program called “Let’s play music.” His practice sessions have involved the entire family. “It says you have to explain these chords to someone. Go show Dad what you’ve been working on.” And the next day, “Play your song for your big sis.” Those practice sessions then turned into teaching sessions, which then turned into practice sessions for all four of us. So now a piano that spent most of its life with us sitting against a wall, is getting played by my son, my husband, my daughter, and me. Because as my daughter has observed, “this is fun.” Look at all us playing the piano… and having fun.
“Yes. It makes sense now,” my husband said. But it always made sense to me.
I think my mint green piano was a slice of hope I held on to. When I acquired it, I hoped I’d learn enough to be valued in my faith community (that’s a story for another day). When that dream died, I held on to it hoping that maybe my kids would have an easier time pursuing music than I did. Then my kids needs became known… I’ve blogged in the past about the unique challenges that me and mine face with the many diagnoses that exist in our family. It’s hard to line up music lessons, when you have to prioritize therapy and doctor appointments. It’s hard to even find time to imagine a life where music could happen, when everyday stuff is next to impossible.
Seeing musicians who we love perform live, did something really positive for our family. It took some doing/saving to make it work, but we did. We had a great time. And now that our concert season is over for a good long while… I’m happy to share that _our_ piano is in tune, and Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” Taylor’s “You Are In Love”, “Three Blind Mice,” and “Old Paint” are all getting banged out on those keys daily. Long may it ever be this way.
Are there emblems of hope that you keep in your home? Have you always recognized them as such or did it take some new perspectives to realize what they were?