I’m first to admit that I am a sentimental fool. That would include my relationship with pianos. My first piano memory was as a toddler living at the corner of 10th and Walnut. My grandparents had lived in the house before we did. In the basement was an upright piano that we children were allowed to plunk on. Apparently Gramma Best had decided that she wanted her piano in the basement rather than the living room. The back door entered the house at a landing where one could go down narrow stairs to the right or straight up a few stairs to the kitchen. Since there was no way to maneuver a giant piano down that narrow stairway and around the bend, she had taken it apart piece by piece, numbered them, carried them downstairs, and put them all back together. If that isn’t spunk, I don’t know what is.
When we left that house we didn’t have a piano again until living in Douglas when my godmother’s grandfather gave us his old upright. Yay! I will never forget how much I loved listening to my mother’s music after we children had gone to bed. She played songs from Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass as well as popular tunes like “Mary Ann” and “Wheels.” That is the piano my siblings and I learned on.
Both of my grandmothers had pianos all of my growing up years. When Gramma Best abandoned the Walnut Street upright (which may still be stuck in that basement,) and moved over to Hanway Street, she got another piano. She loved playing hymns and did so on her weekly visits to nursing home church services. I relished listening to her play, particularly, “Tara’s Theme” from Gone with the Wind, looking forward to the day I would be able to play it. My Uncle Mike Best was my greatest piano inspiration. I was his favorite fan as he played classical songs from his lessons and pounded out the exuberant theme from the Exodus movie! Grampa Best knew just two songs, “Chopsticks” and “How Much is that Doggy in the Window.” We didn’t care and begged for many an encore. We were also invited to play our piano songs for them. Gramma always said that one of her greatest blessings was the opportunity to take piano lessons.
Nana also had a piano. She could play by ear and had a beautiful singing voice. My younger sister was welcome to play, but us noisier grandkids were often told we might break it. Maybe that was just code to have less ruckus at crowded holiday dinners. Besides, the piano was near Papa’s TV football games.
When I went away to college in Sheridan, there was a fledgling music program with one tiny practice room. I was so happy to sneak away and practice the piano in spite of my heavy academic and clinical load in dental hygiene. Those were such bright energizing moments. After moving to Casper, I was again piano-less in our apartment.
A year later we bought our little fixer upper house and spent nights and weekends cleaning, painting and tiling, until we had a very comfy abode. On my birthday that year, I came home for lunch to find a brand new antique pine Baldwin spinet piano in our living room. I was flabbergasted and sat on the bench all alone crying with joy. Tom was back at work after the delivery. That was one of the most touching and thrilling days of my life, almost forty years ago.
In the years since, that piano has played a million miles of notes. Our kids have all taken lessons and I’ve taught dozens of students on it. There is no way to measure the joy it has brought and even the service it has provided as I’ve prepared to accompany choirs and soloists and play duets with friends. Our girls loved to sing along to Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, Little Mermaid, Anastasia, Disney songs and so many others. Though the piano was aging and the finish battered and beaten, (even with initials A.B. carved in the bench during a moment of naughtiness), it has emanated love from day one.
Like Gramma, piano lessons, (mine from dear Mrs. Carver) were one of the greatest blessings of my life. Being so sentimental, I’ve wrestled with the decision to obtain a better piano for several years. The perfect piano found me recently, and I bit. The best part of this story is that our daughter, Emily, who hasn’t played for years, had a desire to have my battle worn piano in her home. I plucked her old books and favorites from my music library and she is having a great time renewing her piano roots. Nothing could make me happier. Let the love play on!