Friday, June 24, 2011

i love a piano...make that two

I love a piano, I love a piano.
I love to hear somebody play upon
a piano, a grand piano.
It simply carries me away.
I Love a Piano
Irving Berlin

Judy Garland (with Fred Astaire) singing I Love a Piano
from the movie Easter Parade

I'm not sure when my love affair with the piano began. Long before the first time I saw Easter Parade (great movie, btw) and heard Judy singing, I loved the piano. Maybe it began with my Aunt. Every Friday after school when I was in first and second grades I would walk over to visit my Aunt Mamie - one of the few relatives of my father's who was around. She was ancient - or seemed so to me - and everything in her house was a curiosity. Frugal to the core, she refused to buy one of those new-fangled color televisions. Instead she had taped across the screen tinted cellophane - yellow across the top, red in the middle, green at the bottom. Watching tv at her house was a surreal experience. She never threw anything away. My family never bought TV Guide - too expensive. We used the free guide. Aunt Mamie had every tv guide she had ever received - piles and piles of them. In her front parlor - yes, she had front and back parlors - was a gorgeous upright player piano. When I wasn't playing teacher to Aunt Mamie's student in the morning room, I was playing the player piano. Funny, I don't remember ever playing outside at her house. The indoors was such a treat.

Maybe it began even before Aunt Mamie's. In the back room of the house I grew up in (and in which my mother still lives), there is a very old, dearly loved upright piano. I believe my parents bought it used (they bought everything used) when my brother was a child - before I was born. He took piano lessons for about three years. Later, I took lessons and lasted about a year. Not because I didn't love it, but because practicing was so difficult. My family's house was built in the 1870s - the front three rooms, at least. In the twenties, the house was added on to. All the materials except the redwood studs were salvaged. The rooms have odd angles and the walls are plywood. No insulation at all. The house is an oven in Summer, and with only a standing gas heater in the front room, it is freezing in the winter. What we called the back room was added on a little later - maybe in the thirties. Unfinished, the only thing between you and the elements were studs and siding. The room is damp, dark, and a little scary. A small part of the front of the room was used by my mother to store canned goods and her sewing supplies. My father used the rest to store his inside "junk" - as we not so fondly called it. Boxes and "stuff" stacked to the ceiling with little aisle ways to walk through. One led to the piano against the back wall. In the winter, I practiced with sweaters and an overcoat on. I wore gloves with the fingers cut out so I could touch the keys. I'd come out at the end of my practice shivering and with a cold, runny nose. In the summer, I wore practically nothing and practiced with sweat running down by face and body. I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did. I've never been much for suffering through things!

I love that piano. I begged my father for it for years. He finally said it could be mine - my brother and sister didn't want it! By the time he gave it to me though, I had nowhere to store it. I was living in an apartment and the poor piano was in terrible shape. It has gotten worse. My father wouldn't repair the roofs when they started leaking. (My mother had them all repaired after he died.) And the back room flooded every winter for years. The piano is still there. I still consider it mine. At least half of the keys stick. Many of the ones that don't stick, don't even make a sound anymore. It needs a lot of tlc. Some day I plan to give all the love and care it needs to my precious piano friend.

All this verbage is leading to some super exciting news. J's dad's and grandmother's church is holding a yard sale. Somehow, this dear but usually very challenging man remembered that I have always wanted a piano. This morning he called me to say they were putting a FREE sign on an extra piano the church had somehow ended up with. Did I want to come check it out? I was there in a flash. It's mine!!! J and I are so excited. It's still in the church library until I can found some big men to bring it over. But we have a piano! It's old. It's an upright. It needs care. Where exactly I'm going to fit it into our very cozy (read tiny) house is a question. We'll make it work. I get to live with a piano!!! Can you tell I'm excited???

Here's a photo of the poor, mistreated, dearly loved piano still at my family home...


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