Something is missing
I was driving to work a few mornings ago, listening to my iPod like usual. This song came on, and the piano in it really jumped out at me:

The Fray - How to Save a Life - How to Save a Life
   "How to Save a Life" by The Fray

This one little song brought so many emotions up in me that as I was driving along, I actually shed a few tears, tears of happy memories and tears for a craft that I seem to have lost a place for in my life.

When I was a child, I was completely fascinated with the piano. My grandmother on my father's side used to play, and she would sit down at the piano and play for what seemed like hours, all from memory. Some of my earliest and fondest memories of her are from the times I spent staring at her fingers, stunned that she knew exactly which keys to hit to make such music. I even remember sitting beside her on the piano bench. And of course I remember being left to my own devices with that piano, banging out my own version of "music."

My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer's during most of my childhood and died when I was a teenager. Almost all of my memories of her are from the period in her life when she wasn't really herself, so I don't feel like I ever really got to know her. But I do have a few precious memories stored away from the earliest stages of her illness, memories such as me watching her play the piano.

There were other people in my life as well who impacted my love of the piano. Where I grew up in my small little hometown, my family lived near two elderly ladies. One of them, Clara, lived within our block in an old general store that had been turned into an apartment on the town square. Clara was nearly blind and deaf, but remained in this same apartment even after her husband passed away. She simply felt her way around, and we knew that in order for her to hear us, we'd have to speak really loudly and close to her ear. My family would visit Clara about once a week for dinner, and Clara, too, had a piano in her apartment that she played, even though she was blind and deaf. That in itself was truly remarkable, especially to an impressionable young child like me.

The other elderly lady in our neighborhood, Lucille, lived right next door to us. She was never married and never had children or grandchildren, yet she doted on my brother and me as if we were hers. We spent a lot of time with Lucille as well, who also played the piano beautifully. Lucille was actually my very first piano teacher. My brother and I would walk next door and hand her dollars from our allowances for our lessons, which probably began when I was around six years old.

I actually remember my very first lesson. I walked in her house, expecting to walk out of her house able to play a song. And when all I learned was about three notes and what fingers play those notes, I walked home and cried. Not just a little bit of crying either – I distinctly remember wailing and sobbing because I was so disappointed that I couldn't play a song. I also remember the day that I was far enough in my piano book that I got to play a song that included the black keys. That was such an exciting day, one in which I had to promptly come home and brag about my awesome news.

My parents bought us an old piano and made sure we practiced, even when we just wanted to quit and give up so that we could play outside. I stuck with my lessons and continued to grow as a pianist over time, while my brother's interest tapered off after a few years. Both Clara and Lucille passed away when we were still quite young, but I remember being able to go back to my grandmother's house and play the piano for her for once, since she could no longer play for me.

Some of my most powerful memories come from my piano-playing days. Not only was it important for me to be able to play for my grandmother, but to this day, the only standing ovation I've ever experienced came after I played during intermission of a high school play. I don't know if I can properly describe the swell of pride I felt at that point. There was also a time where I inherited all of my grandmother's sheet music and decided to pick a piece to play at my grandparents' 50th anniversary party. Someone videotaped my grandparents sitting and listening to me play, and I watched that tape, trying to see if I could discern a hint of recognition in my grandmother's otherwise very blank face. I like to think I saw that moment of recognition. Other important events, such as my brother and sister-in-law's wedding and my grandmother's funeral, have also been marked by me playing the piano.

My parents sold my piano back before I graduated high school, knowing that I'd be going off to college and wouldn't be able to take it with me, and they had no use for it. I haven't bought one since, and it's probably been seven or eight years now. My life is now so full of other things to be passionate about that I haven't actually missed playing the piano all these years.

That is, until I heard this song on the way to work, and now suddenly I miss it so much.


Anonymous alyndabear said...

The Fray are my BOYS, yo, and hearing that song live made me burst into tears. It's beautiful. And I think it means a lot to so many people, the lyrics OR the music. Maybe you could look into playing again?

(And I swear, Isaac made eyes at me through the WHOLE concert. No really!)

Blogger L Sass said...

What a great post!

My mom has considered selling our piano many times but I keep swearing that I want it when I have the space (knock wood.)

Every time I'm back at my parents' place, I like to sit down and play a few songs. I forget how relaxing it is!

Blogger Lindsey said...

I love the piano, although I don't know how to play. I wish I did though. I loved this very beautiful post. It's amazing the things that bring back a flood of memories...

maybe you should play again, even if just once, for fun.

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