Faithful readers will remember that last week we left a young but determined Janet searching for talent and thinking she might find it at the piano.
Mom agreed I could take piano lessons. She enrolled me with Mrs. Rowe, a patient lady with an imposing bosom, who shed talcum powder as she sat beside me on the piano bench and did her best.
I pounded away at the keyboard for a couple of years, earning saliva-smudged, gold stars when I mastered a piece, and then decided I should debut. I began to badger my mother about playing in church. With what I considered unseemly reluctance, she secured an invitation for me to perform during evening services.
Mrs. Rowe recommended I play March of the Wooden Soldiers because I thumped it out quite nicely. I tortured my family for two weeks with its four-page arrangement, practicing it over and over, demanding a critique after each repetition.
Finally, I had it — except for the last five measures, which contained a scale quickly rippling down three octaves, followed by a series of resounding chords. I usually bumbled the opening notes of the scale and had to start over.
I ran out of practice time before I could correct this unfortunate glitch.
On Sunday evening, I donned a pink, dotted-Swiss dress Mom made for my performance and wriggled nervously in a pew until my solo was announced. Face fiery red, I walked forever through somber silence to the piano sitting near the podium.
I plopped down, peered at unrecognizable notes, and sounded the opening chords, my heart leaping so high it clogged my sinuses.
As I played, my situation worsened. The strange surroundings closed in, narrowing my vision, causing me to pant with claustrophobia and drip with sweat. But I didn’t falter. The wooden soldiers and I marched on and on and on and on toward the final measures.
At last, I began the scale. Five notes later, my little finger failed to bridge over my thumb. Silence reigned. I started over. Again, I tripped on my thumb. Sinking so low my chin rested on middle C, I tried once more. And finished.
Mom assured me no one would hold that minor mistake against me. My younger sister said she thought the music was supposed to stumble around at the end, like maybe one soldier was drunk. I said nothing, just crawled back under my bushel.
A few years later, a fire, which burned our home and possessions, consumed my talent as well: no piano, no lessons. I don’t remember minding.
Still, on occasion, I sit at our piano and hammer out basic tunes to the accompaniment of a CD that came with a recent purchase, “Piano for Dummies.” These efforts build neither talent nor skill, but a quiet sense of enjoyment.
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