Courage at Twilight: Pianos

My daughter Hannah came to stay the night with Mom and Dad and me. We baked mince pies and banana chocolate chip muffins; we watched an episode of the delightful new All Creatures Great and Small; we birthday shopped around the valley; she played Mom’s baby grand piano.  When she began to play on Friday evening, Mom and Dad both quietly stood from their family room recliners and shuffled into the living room to hear her play, so beautifully, Clair de Lune, by Claude Debussy.  Her touch and phrasing added to the piece’s natural sublimity.  After baking on Saturday morning, Hannah played piano variations of our Church’s sacred hymns.  Dad, stepping down the stairs in time to give her a good-bye hug, praised her: “I heard and loved every single note you played: so pretty.”  I took piano lessons until I was 17, mastering Debussy’s Girl with the Flaxen Hair, another of history’s most beautiful compositions.  Practicing on the New Jersey baby grand was sometimes painful for the other family members as I struggled hundreds of times through difficult passages.  Hannah’s mother found a 1911 upright grand, which had survived a fire and been dropped on a corner, for $500, and I plunked its keys for over 20 years.  On that piano I dreamed up dozens of lullabies: gifts to my children.  I have told the story of their composition elsewhere on this blog.  Living now with Mom and Dad, for some reason I do not play the piano.  Perhaps the thought of creating music is a gray shadow of older years when my heart carried music.  Perhaps I have lost my touch and talent.  Perhaps I am emotionally empty.  But one evening Mom asked me to play.  I felt somewhat startled, both at the thought of playing, and at realizing I had not played for six months.  I sat down with my lullaby book and played and sang the old songs that opened my heart then and now.

Pictured above: Yours Truly playing the piano in about 1986.

Pictured below: Hannah and Lila recently playing Mom’s baby grand.  My grandmother Dorothy played the piano, as does Mom.  If Lila learns, she will be the fifth generation of pianists in the family.

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