My kids think we should get a pet – preferably a dog or a cat. I think they make enough mess on their own without four-legged co-conspirators so we bought a piano instead. That seemed like a far better family addition at this season of our lives.
In my mind, a house isn’t really a home without a piano and I’ve been yearning for one for years. I started Suzuki instruction when I was four years old and continued taking lessons until I got to college. My parents had a Baldwin upright in the living room and I spent many hours of my life parked in front of it. There are assorted statues and ribbons and trophies tucked away in a closet somewhere, a testament to the musical competitions that were my extracurricular activities for many years.
Music flowed through my childhood, particularly when I spent time with my family. My grandfather was a professional musician and my mom and her siblings all played various instruments throughout their lives including cello, violin, and piano. Family gatherings always included music and my grandparents’ living room was dominated by a gorgeous grand piano.
My mother and I would rehearse crowd-pleasing duets – the kind where we’d overlap our hands or leap up and change places halfway through – and I would occasionally accompany my grandfather as he played the viola. Everybody would gather around the piano and my aunt would play Christmas carols, harmonizing beautifully while the rest of us held down the melody. My uncle and grandfather played music at my wedding, and my mom and grandpa played together at the dedication ceremony for my first child. In my world, “music” and “family” are practically synonymous.
I stopped playing when I stopped having easy access to an instrument (a piano’s not exactly something you tuck into your first apartment). And I’m a bit snobby – electronic keyboards just don’t cut it. But I’ve been biding my time, waiting for the right circumstances. My post-divorce house provided the opportunity, with its lovely hardwood floors and accessible interior walls just crying out for a piano.
So now there’s a used Yamaha upright in my living room and I love it. It’s beautiful and mellow and sometimes I pet it when I walk by. I am unbelievably rusty but the notes are slowly starting to come back as I cheerfully bang away. I bought sheet music to a few pieces my kids love – Puff the Magic Dragon, Beauty and the Beast, etc. – and it’s very affirming when they can (occasionally) identify what I’m trying to play.
I try to practice when my children are home but engaged in other activities, like if they’re coloring or doing a puzzle or reading. Or right after they’ve gone to bed, when they’re tucked in but I know they’re not asleep. I like the idea of embedding the piano into the backdrop of their memories – and I want to show them that I have hobbies beyond tying their shoes and cleaning the kitchen!
My eldest daughter has started making noises about taking lessons and I might let her if she continues to ask. But for now, the piano is for me.