Sunday, March 6, 2016

88 keys

Piano: A musical instrument in which felt-covered hammers, operated from a keyboard, strike the metal strings. (courtesy

It sounds so simple, yet for me, my piano is a lifetime of memories and at times, a best friend.

In second grade, I rode in a borrowed pickup truck with my Dad and one of his friends up winding Route 60 from Marietta to New Lexington.  Someone was giving away a piano, and apparently, I wanted to play.  I don't remember the request, but I remember the trip, for on the return trip the piano started sliding off the tailgate and we had to pull over to secure it.  My Dad told that story over and over.

The old Everett piano-- one of my best friends in life.

We lived then on 8th Street beside a hollow in a rented brick house.  I soon started piano lessons with Mrs. Stout, who lived a few blocks away, next to Mound Cemetery.  My sister took lessons from my Aunt Kathareen but apparently that didn't go very well, according to my Dad, and so I started lessons with Mrs. Stout.  I believe I was a fairly unremarkable piano student though I did enjoy playing, until about 6th or 7th grade.  One summer, I decided that the old, used Everett console with dark wood already nicked with time, was my new best friend.

I played and played, for hours on end.  Our family situation was extremely volatile and very unconventional for the 1950's and 60's.  My friends had fathers who worked and mothers who stayed home and baked cookies and cleaned house.  My father was totally disabled Marine who went in on Day 1 of Iwo Jima and could not work.  He was and always will be my hero. My mother was a secretary and registrar for the Washington County Health Department.

My father fought the Battle of Iwo for the rest of his life with various addictions and mental health issues and my mother never truly coped with his problems.  My sister was six years older, and I always felt very different from my friends and very alone at times.

That piano became my solace and my friend, and gave me companionship and also an opportunity to excel at something.

Soon after I started taking the piano seriously, Mrs. Stout became too ill and elderly to continue to teach and so I started lessons with Aunt Kathareen.  This time, it went very well for me and my family.

I continued lessons with her until I graduated from high school, and we were both nervous every year about the recitals as I did not want to let her down and she didn't want me to either.  But we were both perfectionists who got along great.

I got to know my Dad's oldest sister well and admired her talent at the piano and organ.  She was the organist at the First Presbyterian Church for over 50 years and she also gave me organ lessons on a magnificent pipe organ at the church for two years.  I loved taking lessons from Aunt Kathareen and every time I still play some of the sonatinas and sonatas I learned from her I think of sitting beside her on the piano bench at the baby grand in her basement.

My Dad loved listening to me play, as did my Grandmother, and at times I can still see their faces as I played their favorite songs for them.  My grandmother had me play for her church circle at her home and so I became adept at Baptist hymns.  My Dad loved anything I played, but when I found his favorite song was Fascination I learned to play it for him, and we danced to that song as the Dad-bride dance at my wedding.  If I want to feel close to him I sit down at the old Everett and play Fascination.

For a while I was separated from my dear piano as I went off to college at The Ohio State University and then lived in an apartment before I got married to my husband Jeff.  But the piano played a part in our courtship. When I started bringing him home, we would invariably end up sitting on the piano bench together.  I would play classical and pop songs to him, singing the words of "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" to him.

He loved it, and so did I.  He once told me he had never met anyone who could play and sing the piano.  We were young and in love, and the piano made us closer still.  That song has remained our song, having it played at our wedding, and we still dance to it in the kitchen.  But it all started at that old piano.  And yes, I still play that same arrangement for him on the same piano and on the same piano bench.

As soon as we were married and built our first home the piano left Marietta and we have all been together ever since.  I discovered plastic labels under the bench that my niece Lisa and her friend Kathy had decorated as children.

Through the years I have sometimes still played extensively and some years have barely had time to touch the keys.  But the piano always patiently waited for me to return, and I always did.

When my daughter was a baby, I would sit her on my lap and watch her little fingers strain to press hard enough to make noise. I was delighted when she enjoyed it.  She took piano lessons in elementary school and also practiced on it as I did.  She then switched to flute and on to mellophone and was a proud member of The Ohio State University Marching Band.  I am proud that the old piano provided some of the musical foundation for her also.

The old Everett has moved two more times and now rests in our den.  It needs tuned and has two keys that need glued but emits the same feeling for me as when I was a child.  Now  a retired high school principal, I find I have more time to sit down with my old friend.

Have I really played you since I was 7 years old?  Through good times and bad?  You have been my friend for the bulk of my life, and I still cherish taking even 5 or 10 minutes to play some of the same songs I have for years.  I love the connection with classical music the most, for in playing Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Dvorak, I feel not only linked with my piano but with eternity, and with all of those who have played these songs before me.

And today, the old Everett is still welcoming a new generation of our family to its 88 keys, our granddaughter Marisol.  Marisol sits on my lap and puts her tiny fingers on its keys. In just two weeks or so she has gone from not being able to make a noise to pounding it out with feeling!. She especially enjoys the low octaves, stretching her little arms all the way down to the lowest key.  Why?  Because it is there.  And then her face emits the brightest and best smile ever.  Just like her mother.  And just like I still do in my heart.

Marisol and I at the old piano.

88 keys.  Yes, it is a musical instrument with 88 keys.  But for me, the 88 keys hold my heart, my deepest emotions, love, and a lifetime of memories.


  1. I love this post! I was immediately intrigued by your use of a quote. I enjoyed reading through the pianos history, and the ending with your sweet Marisol was perfect! Thank you for sharing!!!

  2. Thanks, Brooke-- I appreciate your specific feedback and taking the time to respond. Marisol and I have fun!


I would appreciate hearing your ideas and learning from you. Please share.