And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
The piano’s story continues.
Over the weekend, I heard Olivia intermittently plunking on the new old piano. Every time I heard her, I smiled. And when I passed it, I smiled at the piano too. From time to time, if no one was around, I folded back the keyboard cover and plunked a little myself. A cheerful or melancholy rendition of “Chopsticks” (yes, Chopsticks can be melancholy). A song I remember that my brother made up, though I no longer remember how to do the left hand. The right-hand melody of “Heart and Soul”.
I think “Heart and Soul” with just the right hand is a pretty lonely sound. But I never learned the left hand/bass clef.
Over the weekend, I was at a used bookstore, and I found the nicest Introduction to Piano book. Not only did it teach finger placement and notes and songs, but it talked about a piano’s care and placement. I brought it home. Before the book even made it into the piano’s bench, Olivia snatched it and disappeared into her room.
On Monday afternoon, I was pretty deep into writing. It took me a while to realize that I was humming. I stopped when I became conscious of it because I wondered what the hell I was doing. The song certainly had nothing to do with what I was writing.
Though maybe it did. The song was “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring”.
From downstairs, I heard the piano, and the piano was singing that song. Only Olivia was home with me. Only Olivia could be playing it. With both the left and right hands.
I removed my own hands from my own lettered keyboard and just listened. There were a few hesitations, a few misplaced fingers. But then a silence and she played it again. Start to finish. Flawlessly.
There’d been no lessons yet. Just a friendly book from a used bookstore. And a young woman’s desire to play.
And my desire to hear. I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to live in a home filled with piano music. There was a piano in the home I used to share with my first husband. Each of my older children took lessons for a time and I loved to listen to them. When I left that home and that husband, the piano stayed behind. I hadn’t paid for it, he said, he did. So it was his.
But now there was another piano in my living room. And another child playing it. “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”.
As Olivia started to play again, I sang the words, quietly.
“Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings…”
Later, Olivia asked me how I thought she did. When I told her she was amazing, she didn’t believe me. But she was. In how she managed to play. In how she made me feel.
And later still, home alone again, I sat down and played my lonely one-handed version of “Heart & Soul”.
“But now I see, what one embrace can do
Look at me, it’s got me loving you madly…”
Joy. Heart and soul. Sometimes, you can play a song with just one hand, but hear a symphony. Or at least, hear what you’ve always wanted to hear: a home filled with the sound of a piano.
Eventually, like Olivia, I’ll figure the bass clef out. Until then, I’ll listen. And play with one eager hand when I’m by myself.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.