As I transitioned from childhood to adolescence, and throughout my teenage years, my family had very little in the way of extra money. Fortunately, I never went to bed hungry, but my clothing was well worn out before I received replacements. All the items of fun were handmade; including toys, go carts, swings, playhouse, tree house, forts, and ski boat were all constructed from discarded or leftover items. Even the boat motor came from a wrecked truck in the junk yard.
When I was very young, my great grandmother bought a piano for my mother. A pine box with a dark purple mahogany stain. The money spent was equal to six weeks of my father’s take-home pay. We had only a few vinyl records to play on the old phonograph, so my mother favored us with piano music. My mother took piano lessons at Fresno City College and played duets with her friend Jean whose son Paul became my best friend. I would sit with my mother and watch her play.
Piano lessons for me were absolutely out of the equation as speech therapy and hearing aids were far more important. I did however manage to learn to play “Tammy” by watching her fingers, and taught myself a bit of music reading by comparing her fingering to the notes on the music sheet. Reverse learning.
When my own granddaughter was seven years old, I bought her a piano and regularly drove across town to pick her up and drive her to her piano lessons. I was then fifty seven, and also took piano lessons at the same time. Well, after a few years, she complained to her parents about not wanting to practice so the lessons ceased for her. However, I continued to practice and attend lessons for twelve years until I mastered my only song, “Claire de Lune.” At the six-month mark my piano teacher told me that she didn’t think I could do it. Well, I proved her wrong and you can see and hear me play at netzley.com/clair-de-lune.
When my granddaughter was thirteen, she was master of ceremonies to a church Christmas Fireside. With the help of her peers up to eighteen years of age, they gave talks and sang songs. She both played the piano for the others and joined them in the choir.
Another time we were invited to watch another performance of the youth. I strained my neck trying to see my granddaughter in the choir so I turned my head to the side and could then see her majestically playing the piano.
This past week her five younger brothers came to visit. My nine-year-old grandson asked if he could play on the piano a piece that he played at a recital. I pulled up a chair and enjoyed his performance. Then my 16-year-old grandson played a piece by JS Bach.
A tale of two pianos, one from my great grandmother and one from me. This has become a multigenerational tradition of bringing music to our families and has held us close together throughout the years.