Plunk-plunk-plunk. Yes, that’s me, sitting at the upright Hamilton piano that I bought for my son’s lessons music eight years ago. He’s playing Mozart these days, and it moves me. After years of nagging him, years of wheedling him to practice and get off his latest electronic device and shlepp with me to lessons, years of mediating between him and his formidable tower of a piano teacher; years of listening to my son go plunk-plunk-plunk–magic happened. Sonatas flow from his dancing adolescent hands. He turns to the piano, our piano, to pass the time, to express his rage and delight and curiosity. Music is a daily member of this household. It’s a priceless joy for my family to watch and listen as the process unfolds and blossoms and crystallizes.
Good for him, and for us. The used piano bought during a university sale at the University of California has fulfilled its purpose. Those two years of piano payments, plus the ongoing lesson fees, like braces, never going away. Happy ending. Right?
Well, not exactly. I’d always intended to learn to play, too. I come from a family of musicians and artists. On my seventh birthday I received a guitar, and I learned to play it, kinda sorta (“Where have all the flowers gone?”). There was, of course, all that nagging and wheedling to practice going on then too, but in reverse, with me winning out by NOT practicing (and NOT winning out, as we all know now). So, no guitar playing. I dabbled in singing too. My sister Irene has a gorgeous voice; she has always been the singer. My sister Ann played piano and violin well as a child, and she plays still.
Oh, and I have a famous Grammy award winning cousin, Peter Nero, who is one of the best piano players in the world. I’ve got that blood too.
But me? Nah. I tried some lessons, tried some plunking. And gave it up. I’m an adult now; no one can wheedle me into submission and competence.
Then, a month ago, I saw Peter Nero play at Copley Symphony Hall here in San Diego. We had awesome seats thanks to him and his daughter, my cousin, Beverly (also a musician and artist and producer, etc.). I saw, and heard, the absolute chemistry of piano and player when a lifetime of dedication and study has occurred along with a sprinkle of magic and oodles of brilliance and creativity. My cousin was a prodigy. I am a non-musician with a Beginning Piano book collecting dust on our piano.
Yet at that concert…something happened to me. Something kindle: a longing, a passion. I thought: why not?
Why not embrace something totally new? Instead of spending too much energy, time and emotion on the cares and worries and losses of “the back forty,” why not plunge into something difficult and fabulously new?
Why not challenge myself? After all, look at my mother. She’s trying to learn now, too. Goodness. Look at her…
So, here’s an alternative ending, and I like this one much, much better. I’ve been plunk-plunk-plunking. Every day. I swear it. I can play “Greensleeves” with two hands now. I can sing along with it. My son is helping me figure out the notes and squiggles and all that damn counting. And I am helping myself.
Okay, I’m not a musician and may never be. But I am playing piano, all by myself.
I love it. It’s my new best thing.