I have in mind to write about pianos but sitting down to do it, I feel myself pulling back. I feel about pianos the way some people feel about God. The thing that’s between us is so personal it hurts. It runs deeper than the realm of something as limited as language.
Listening to me play, you wouldn’t know about us. You’d be sitting there thinking about what my fingers did with the notes. Fine for country churches, fine for a group, not even in the ballpark for a professional musician. But playing for other people was never the point. What connects us isn’t about what I do with a piano, it’s about what the piano has done for me. My throat fills up trying to say it.
I heard my mother practicing a Bach Invention when I was younger. I fell in love. I didn’t care about the piano. I took lessons because I wanted to play that Invention. My beloved, eighty year old Mrs. Murdoch took me there and beyond. A wonderful high school music teacher, Ms. Liszka, let me learn to accompany, giving me a lifetime of ways to be part of music. These two who helped me, without whom I could not have known the piano in the same way, will get their own piece someday. This imperfect piece with the wordless tears is for the piano.
For a lot of high school, I was afraid. There were lots of things to be afraid of.
Play me, it said. And I would open the hymn book and touch those promises until I believed them.
I wanted to dream. About all kinds of things – acting, writing, boys, running a home for kids nobody believed in, happy endings.
Play me, it said. And I would take out sheet music from our choir and play my heart out with, “Somewhere Out There,” and other such.
I was sad. Life was sad. I was young and I didn’t want it that way.
Play me, it said. Weep into me for as long as it takes. So I did.
I was so mad I wanted to smash things. If cars ran on rage, I could have driven to Pluto and back. Ten times.
Oh for heaven’s sake, it said. Do you honestly think there’s not something your fingers can do here that will fit the occasion? When in doubt, play louder, dear. Play softer, and you’ll figure out how much you need to cry.
To worlds gone mad, it gave me chromatic scales played contrary at lightning speed, rhythm perfectly precise.
For my sorrows, my hopes, and my happiness, it spoke to me in the places without words and gently filled them with music.
I don’t know that I ever sit down and play without remembering. When we are alone together, I am home. A thousand thanks, beloved friend of my heart.