My husband took the boys to his softball game last week, and, for the first time in months, I had an entire evening to myself. I shuffled around the house for a bit, picking up toys and cracker crumbs and discarded pieces of clothing. I contemplated pouring a glass of wine or cracking open the novel I’d just renewed from the library for the third time. I considered giving myself a facial or doing something with the jagged stumps I call fingernails. I had so many things I could do, but none of them seemed right. As I walked to the front door to check the mail, I noticed delicate rays of light streaming through the blinds in our front room. The pale waves danced across the smooth black wood of my piano, giving it a heavenly glow.
Oh, how I love my piano. As a child, I cursed my mother for the lessons, the hours of practice, the recitals that had my introverted self shaking like a leaf. But as I grew older, it became more like a friend than a chore. It was something to pound on when I was angry, something to make me feel when my soul fell numb, something to pour my heart into when everything else in my life felt as if it were crashing down around me. In college, I found myself wandering through the halls of my dorm at midnight, blinking back tears from a breakup/bad grade/fight with a friend, until I landed at the ancient Steinway in the lobby and played until the night clerk told me it was time to go. To this day, I’m still amazed at how a few minutes of Mozart can cleanse my soul and provide strength for another day.
I have a beautiful piano now, a Kawai baby grand that sits in our front room collecting dust and deflecting the sticky fingers of my children. In between parenting and writing, it gets played once a month at best, and I’m lucky to get in a full song before I need to stop and break up a Lego-induced fight. I miss my hours in front of the piano, and if it could talk, it would probably say it misses me.
I could feel the day’s tension in my shoulders as I sat down and opened up my go-to book, Schirmer’s Thirty-Two Sonatinas and Rondos For the Piano. For a good hour I played Clementi and Kuhlau, Hadyn and Hofmann, finishing with the Mozart Sonata I performed in an eighth grade solo and ensemble competition. My fingers were cramping, but my shoulders were tense no more. A calm had possessed my body, a forgotten peace that almost brought me to tears. I pulled my achilles heel from the bench, Beethoven’s nineteen page Sonate Pathetique. I played it for my Senior Recital when I was seventeen; I love it more than anything, but it’s hard. My hands were shaking by page five, my arms heavy by the second movement, but I played on. It was far from perfect, but perfection was not the goal. Daylight was waning as I played my last note, but I no longer needed the light. I was finished, my soul fed and cleansed, as if I’d spent the last two hours laughing and having cocktails with a beloved old friend.
The door flung open as I closed the piano’s lid, and my fresh-faced children rushed in to disturb the peace with their boisterous chatter. They took a seat at the kitchen table and proceeded to stuff fistfuls of popcorn into their mouths.
“Did you have fun while we were gone?” my oldest asked in between chews.
“I did,” I replied.
“What did you do?” my youngest chimed in.
“I played the piano.” I stretched my aching fingers and stole a piece of popcorn.
My oldest’s mouth opened with awe. “The whole time?”
I smiled as serenity floated through my veins. “Yes. The whole time.”