Shortnin Bread

When I was ten or eleven years old, I desperately wanted a piano. In a house of six kids, wants weren't needs, and so they rarely came to be. Somehow my mother managed to come up with enough money to buy me an old, very worn upright. Nobody else in the family wanted to play, it took up an entire wall in the living room, weighed a ton, and there was no way my family had any money to spare. But she bought it for me all the same. It seems to me she told me once she used our family's entire tax return that year.

Mrs. Wiggins (don't you love that name?) lived a block up the street, and taught piano lessons in her home. We couldn't afford to pay for piano lessons, but somehow she and my mother came up with the arrangement that I'd clean her home once a week in exchange for a half hour lesson. Back then I was a bit embarrassed that, while my other girlfriends were having their paid for lesson, I was scrubbing and dusting all around them. Now I realize Mrs. Wiggins let me earn my lessons only out of the goodness of her heart.

I took lessons from her for a year or so. So many years later I still remember F-A-C-E and "Every Good Boy Does Fine"; my mother never, ever, ever had to make me practice. It was always something I dearly loved.

We finally reached the end of the school year, when recitals were held. I can still remember, 50+ years later, that I played 'Mama's Little Baby Loves Shortnin Bread' and oh, how I could play it. Fingers racing up and down the keyboard, I was practically a virtuoso..... :-)  The day of the recital arrived, and my entire family showed up to support me, filling an entire wooden pew at the little Baptist church where the recital was held. It came to be my turn, and up I headed, to sit at the bench and play my piece.

Somehow, in the jumble of nerves, and in what felt like an out-of-body experience, I lost my place. I  had absolutely no idea where to pick up so I just made up the rest of the song. Played and played and played until I thought I'd gone long enough, then I stopped.

God bless Mrs. Wiggins who never batted an eye, and led the group to applaud for me.

We moved out of state the next school year. My dog and Barbie and that enormously heavy upright piano did not make the cut when my father was deciding what to load in the back of a u-haul and move us across the country. We never managed to buy another piano, and my dream fell to the wayside.   

About fifteen years ago, after my nest had emptied out, I decided to take lessons again. This teacher also taught out of her home, and I progressed a bit more. But I quit. We moved. Time went by, and still I had such a longing to really learn to play. So I put it on my bucket list, 'play Christmas carols badly'.

So here I am, how many years later, and still wanting to learn to play. I tell myself, If I REALLY learn to play at 62, how well could I play after a few years of lessons, and how much could I progress over the next twenty years, and how much enjoyment could I get out of playing?  I decided to just do it. I asked neighbors for recommendations for a teacher, and more than one led me to a retired music teacher who teaches out of her home. I phoned her, and yes, she accepts adult students. Even students who have quit more than once.

Yesterday was my first lesson, and I expected to be intimidated, nervous, unsure of myself, but I was just so happy to be there that I was none of those. This was not her first rodeo, and she started me out, sure and strong. She is delightful and warm and encouraging and I expect we are going to get along just fine. Today I sat down at Katie, the keyboard Santa brought me, and an hour flew by before I knew it. Katie has so many buttons and gadgets and an accomplished pianist could make her do amazing things. Right now I'm just thankful she fits in the little space in our office, and that she has a port in the back for headphones so Cub Sweetheart doesn't have to listen to me plunking away at beginner stuff.

I read a quote somewhere (don't remember the source) that the best time to plant an oak tree is fifty years ago, and the next best time to plant an oak tree is today. That quote has spurred me on so many times, and especially as I am in this fall season of life.

I wonder, some of you out there, what dream have you given up on, set aside, put down? Maybe you feel, in the back of your mind, that it'll just never happen. You've waited too long, or you're a little too old, or there isn't money in the budget, or or or or

I so hope - even if, like me, you've quit more than once - you'll have the courage to dream again, put it - whatever 'it' is - back on the list. I know my mom, who made that huge sacrifice over 50 years ago, would be pleased to know I didn't completely give up on this dream of mine. Maybe someone out there is cheering you on too, hoping you'll have the courage to try again, or for the first time, whatever is calling to your heart.

P.S. I haven't told my new teacher that I have a bit of PTSD over the thought of a recital. Maybe, with time, I can even find the courage to give that another whirl. 


Sarah said…
I'm SO glad you're taking lessons!! And your summer teacher promises she won't make you do a recital. ;)
Polly said…
I love this post!!! I also learned (and still own) on a big old heavy duty upright. I also have performance anxiety. And I also am taking music lessons as an adult! I think it's wonderful that you're doing this and enjoying it so much!

Popular Posts