by Jeanine DeHoney
I knew the moment I said a resounding yes to keeping the piano the previous owners of our house asked if we wanted, there'd be a sage lesson that came from keeping it. I just didn't know when it would come.
It was an old upright J.C. Campbell-New York black piano we inherited. Manufactured by Kohler & Campbell, Inc., Fiftieth and Eleventh Ave., New York City, I learned after doing some research on the Internet. Music, playing it, singing it, humming it seemed to lift the weight of the world off my mother.She often told my sister and I stories of how she once sang the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” on the radio as a child. I can still hear her croon “Pardon me, boy. Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?”
My father played the saxophone. Thinking music was in our gene pool my mother insisted my sister and I take piano lessons when all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and fill my black and white notebooks with stories.
Instead, for one hour, one day a week, I accompanied my sister pouting and stomping to our piano teacher’s apartment, a kindly woman who wore her hair in a bun hung low at the nape of her neck and schoolgirl shoes.. Her piano sat in her living room like an anomalous piece of oversized furniture. To her, I'm sure she saw it as an amazing instrument that would one day produce musical prodigies.
She had a tender but firm voice, and when it was my turn for a lesson, I purposely stiffened my fingers no matter how many times she urged me to flex them. It didn't daunt her. “Place your left index finger on F and your right index finger on G. Press 6 times. Move your left hand down a E but keep your right one in the same place G. Press 6 times, …Okay let’s repeat. See dear, you're playing Chopsticks.
All I wanted to do was write stories about cats and little girls that lived in Paris. But somehow she taught me how to play chopsticks good enough for a dreaded recital at a neighborhood church. “Both hands held sideways, little fingers down. Now play Jeanine,” she instructed. “You can do it.” And I did even with butterflies in my stomach but I vowed never to go near a piano again.
Now, over forty years later, here is this piano in my home otherwise untouched unless my granddaughter is playing a rendition of “Bang, Bang, bang,” and I finally have embraced the lesson it has been trying to teach me.
“Practice and persevere at your craft Jeanine. Compose your words to make your own melody.” And sometimes I envision my sage piano teacher being there, pointing to my computer and instructing me in a tender but firm voice, “Place your finger on a letter, any letter and write. Okay let’s repeat. See dear, I knew you could do it.”
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Jeanine DeHoney is a wife, mother, and grandmother of three, whose beloved computer is kitty cornered next to her beloved piano. She has had her writing published in Quality Woman’s Fiction, Mused-Bella Online, Mothering.com, Literary Mama, The Mom Egg, Grand Magazine, on the site This I Believe and Writing-Kids, Funds for Writers and Writing-world.com. She has also been published on the blogs Divine Caroline, The Mom Egg, and Good Enough Mother and was an essayist in "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul," and "Living Lessons," and upcoming in an anthology entitled "The Perfect Pair," about women and their love affair with shoes. Currently Jeanine is a contributing writer to EsteemYourself E-magazine.
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