I remember Mr. Burke’s small, perfectly formed, all-caps script he used to write the date and reminders above each song. I remember that he was rather tall without much hair and that he lived with his mother. And I remember, that in the din of the small lamp in our living room, he taught me to play the piano.
We started with the Alfred d’Auberge Piano Course Book One with The Animal Fair and finished the book with my favorite, a simplified version of Bach’s Musette. Above the final song is a note from Mr. Burke, “DON’T PLAY TOO LOUD!”
On the very first page where it says, “My Name Is….” my name, Carrie Cook, that was written in my Mom’s small, perfectly formed, left-slanting script, is crossed out and my younger brother and sister’s names, in their own handwriting, are written to the side.
The rule was that we each had to take piano lessons for three years. Many books, many teachers, and many more years than three, I was still pounding out new songs and eventually driving myself to lessons. I spent hours in front of the keys during my teenage years just letting my thoughts run wild. I stayed out of trouble during my college years by finding the nearest piano and plucking out Elton John songs while some listened and the brave ones sang. From time to time, I’d be asked to play for different choirs, auditions, a musical here, a dinner theater performance there.
Nowadays, most of my piano playing happens in my own house. A round of Christmas Carols during the holidays, a mellow selection in the evenings when I’m pensive, and The Entertainer played on high-speed when I want to make my kids laugh.
I also have a playlist of piano music I listen to while I cook. The combination is my yoga.
I carried on the tradition of “three years of piano lessons.” My eldest two finished their three years and that was the end. My littlest guy just completed year one. Who knows what the piano will mean to him in two years but for now, I love listening to him practice.
The sole reason piano music even had the chance to become such an important part of my life is because of my Mom. She always wished she had learned as a child. She made sure her children had the opportunity.
If I’m honest with myself, my daughter was enrolled in dance at age 3 because I love dance and I always wished I had done more of it as a child. After dancing for 10 years, my daughter took her dance to a level I never knew. Although she’s no longer involved in dance like she used to be, I have a feeling it will surface again in her life. Perhaps it will be a class in college for fun or a class in a Community Recreation center as an adult just to remember how she felt as a child.
And who knows what she will wish she had done as a child and didn’t. What unfulfilled desire she’ll pass along to her children. What gift she’ll give them. The circle continues.
“Thank you, Mom, a hundred billion, zillion, times over for passing along your desire to play the piano. I can’t imagine my life without that big ole honkin’ instrument with the lizard engraved on it. I love you. xoxo”
PS: While it’s been very quiet over here in the La Pomme cooking department, I did write up a couple blog posts for 1859 Oregon’s Magazine that may inspire your dinnertime hour.
PSS: I came across this article by Dr. Oz that backs up my musings about My Summer Office.