This is poor, poor, pitiful me: stuck sitting at the piano and failing to get my fingers on the right keys. I know I mastered “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” because I found the book of children’s easy pieces in the piano bench, where it has been since the 1960s. I know this lesson took place in the 1960s because I can see the Danish modern furniture in the background.
My father, a professional musician in addition to being a drama teacher, gave me my lessons. My mother, hovering in the background, would yell out what she thought he was doing wrong. At the same time, my father would tell me what I was doing wrong. More often than not, I ended up crying in the bathroom after one of these lessons.
My sister had a better experience.
As you can see, she is smiling in this picture.
One night, when my parents had a party, I crouched down by the heating vent to eavesdrop. The conversation got around to the piano, and I heard my father say that he didn’t think I had much talent for it. Well, even though I knew that already, it still hurt my feelings a little.
I don’t know when we came to the mutual agreement to abandon my lessons, but it couldn’t have come soon enough for me.
The piano belonged to my mother. Her parents somehow managed to buy it for her during the Depression. I never got all the details, but I think they paid for it week by week. When my mother came to San Francisco from Detroit for a visit in 1947, she met my dad and never looked back. Once her parents got over the shock of her engagement to someone she’d just met, they must’ve had the piano shipped to California. I only remember her playing it occasionally–sometimes she and Dad would play four-handed.
Dad loved to play this piano. We enjoyed those evenings when he would sit and play for us, just flowing from one standard to another. One of his favorites was “It’s Easy to Remember (And So Hard to Forget),” a tune by Rodgers and Hart.
He had binders full of handwritten charts, like this one, stacked inside the piano bench.
When he died, the piano stood quiet. Several years later, my mother died, and the piano went to my sister.
And today, the movers came and took the piano away. It needs some restoration work, but I hope someone will get some more good years out of it.
We were never friends, me and this piano, but still.
It was a little sad to see it go. All that music, all those years. So easy to remember.