Okay, some of you know that we’ve been hanging out with friends and family, and this week we’ve been entertaining my parents, some cousins and some in-laws and friends have also been here on the farm.
Today I thought I’d share a story from last year when my parents visited:
I didn’t always have a piano.
Back when Watson and I were first married, we had nothing. Literally. We rented a single-wide trailer that was in such bad shape the owners burned it down when we moved out. Sometime, I’d like to talk about that a little more. Not today.
My mother was a music teacher before she got married, and she gave all of her kids piano lessons. I’ve mentioned before that I’m kind of stubborn (that’s an understatement), but thankfully, I’m not rebellious and stubborn. In fact, I was always kind of a goody-goody growing up, and I kind of got into hot water with my siblings because I hated having my parents upset with me and I worked hard at making them happy.
Part of that was practicing the piano.
I never had any natural talent in anything that I know of (is stubbornness a talent?), and music did not come naturally for me, but unlike my sister who propped a novel up on the piano and read it while she “practiced” a C scale for her thirty minutes of practice time or my other sister who spend twenty-five of her thirty minutes in the bathroom on the phone, I was very uncreative and didn’t really consider doing anything except practicing during my thirty minutes.
It was hard for me, and I didn’t really enjoy it until I learned to play hymns. After that, I was hooked.
I think I mentioned I collect music and hymnbooks in particular. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with hymns.
When I sit down at the piano, hours can go by that feel like minutes. I guess we all have something we love like that, right?
I’ve mentioned that I don’t talk much and I’m kind of unemotional, but Watson will joke that he can tell what kind of mood I’m in by what my piano playing sounds like. That’s probably true.
It’s a creative outlet and a form of expression, I suppose.
When I play from the hymnbook, I “sing” the words in my mind. I don’t have every verse of every hymn memorized, but there are definitely a lot of them in my head.
Anyway, when we got married, we were way too poor to afford a piano, so we lived without one.
Of all the things I’d left at my parents’ house, that was definitely the one thing I missed the most. I missed it with a physical longing, maybe it could have been considered an addiction, since I played it every day.
We were married for a few months when I told Watson about a FREE piano. He and my brother went and got it. (I’m pretty sure the ad said: FREE piano. Good for firewood. But I cut the last three words off, and Watson didn’t see them when I showed him the ad and begged him to get it for me.)
You know those things that kind of become the stuff of legends? I don’t know how much a typical piano weighs, but this FREE piano weighed as much as a small mountain. (Watson and my brother will swear on a stack of Bibles that that statement is true.) All of the back trouble that either of those two men have (and possibly any of the back trouble that their sons and their sons’ sons have) can be directly traced back to having to move that piano for me.
I’ve never cared about anyone’s weight and I had no trouble loving that piano, but weight wasn’t really its only problem. The soundboard was cracked.
Piano 101: the soundboard is imperative for keeping the piano in tune, and once it’s cracked, the piano will never stay in tune.
I didn’t care.
It also did not have a very nice tone, half the wood veneer had fallen off, the keys were four different colors, there was no bench and no place to hold music, and ten of the eighty-eight keys didn’t work.
I didn’t care about any of that, either.
Something that did make a little bit of a difference was that the plastic veneer on the white/yellow/brown keys was cracked and broken in places. If I was careful, I could play without it cutting my fingers.
I might have mentioned that I’m not very good at doing things halfway, and that’s doubly true for playing the piano. The whole soul goes into the music. So, pretty much every time I played, I had little bloody fingerprints all over the keys. You ever hear anyone say, “Hang on a sec while I wipe the blood off my piano?” LOL.
I suppose when I moved out of my parents’ home, I took the music with me, and they both missed that. By that time, my mom was a reading teacher and had just survived her first round of cancer and hardly ever played. The organ is really her instrument, anyway.
As a parent now, I understand a little better—as each child moves out, they leave a hole in your heart and life. It’s funny how they start out life and all they do is cry and you wonder if you’re ever going to sleep through the night again (the answer to that is no, btw), and then by the time they leave, you wonder how you’re ever going to live without them.
My dad, especially, seemed to love listening to me play when I was still at home. He would sit in a different room and just lean back and close his eyes. He loves the simple hymns as much as I do, I guess.
I play the violin and some other instruments, too, but the piano is really where I have what my mom calls “the touch” and claims it runs in the family—my aunt has it. Which totally sounds weird to me (it sounds a little voodoo-like to me, and I’m not into that at all), but hey, I try not to argue with my mom. : )
So, my parents were down here a few weeks ago. My dad had a great time on our golf cart (the one that Watson took four-wheeling in the woods). He’d drop the girls and their tubes off upriver, then follow them down the river, driving the golf cart on the trail beside them. They’d get out on the other side of the covered bridge—a little less than a mile—and he’d take them back up and do it again. Mom rode along, and I think they were both having the time of their lives.
But my parents are in their eighties, and they both get tired. (I told you all about my sister’s husband, and there are some other things going on that are stressing them as well. I suppose that makes them more tired, but they were usually ready to come in and sit for a bit after lunch.)
I’m not a great conversationalist and I hate watching TV, but my parents seemed pretty content listening to me play. And hey, playing the piano is not a hardship for me. So, when they were here, I spent a lot of time on the bench.
I really wasn’t sure if they’d rather be doing something else, though, until I was walking through the hall one day as they were in the kitchen. I heard my mom say, “Isn’t it nice to hear her play?”
Dad: I’ve missed that.
Mom: I’m glad we get to listen to her.
Dad: Me too.
Maybe some of you, like me, don’t know what to do for your parents. It feels like I owe them more than I could ever repay.
And it’s kind of funny because that “repayment” didn’t just start today, but back when I put the time in practicing as a kid—I remember one spring when I was inside while everyone else was out playing, memorizing eight pages of Brahms’s music, heavy and dark, and it made me wonder what in the world could be wrong with someone that they could write music that was SO depressing—and playing with bleeding fingers (and give Watson and my brother credit for moving that monstrosity into my living room to begin with), and coming to Virginia where God wanted me and where He had a piano waiting for me (one that my husband didn’t even have to move, LOL), ready to play for my parents out of my (embarrassingly large) collection of hymnbooks when they came to visit. Then God allowed me to hear that little snippet of conversation, and I got a blessing out of being a blessing to them.
I know God is always awesome, but sometimes, he just pulls the strings of our lives together in such a way that’s it’s just unbelievably beautiful. My parents’ visit, and the part my piano played, seems like such a thing—where the Lord has worked for years, decades even, to give us something beautiful to share. : )
Okay, there are five Thursdays in July and I have gotten together with five other authors to offer you six free or $.99 books every Thursday in July. Watch for my Thursday July emails! : )
Don’t forget about my new release – Precious Memories available today!
Thanks so much for spending time with me today!
Love and hugs,