Hide It Under a Bushel, No! continued

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.

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PART II

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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Hide It Under a Bushel, No!

I listened to my father’s voice soar when he sang solos in church.

I saw the first, faltering, ice-skating attempts of my brother, and a year later watched him swoop around a frozen pond, skating backward with a smile on his face.

My mother, who could create anything, took up the art of tole painting in her sixties. I witnessed her absorption and contentment as she studied, practiced, and progressed.

So when I started blogging, “Utilizing Talents and Skills” became one of my categories for living and aging well. This post and the next will detail my first experience with talent development.

 As a young child, I believed I should share my special abilities whenever and wherever possible. I formed this philosophy from two unrelated experiences in church: hearing a parable about buried talents and singing a song about a little light: “Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine!”

I assumed the light I should shine was the talent I shouldn’t bury. I knew about talents. We had assemblies at school where the older students tap-danced, played the accordion, and attempted to yodel.

I wondered what my talent could be.

It definitely wasn’t singing. As Aunt Beulah said, I couldn’t carry a tune and shouldn’t try. While other family members received compliments for their soaring voices, my tuneless chirping caused merriment in some, fear I wouldn’t stop in others.

Convinced my voice was better off under a bushel, I looked for a different talent to share. Many of my third-grade friends studied piano. While I envied the important-looking satchels filled with music they carried on lesson day, I’d never thought of learning to play myself.

Then one Sunday I watched teenage perfection, Mavis Beck, with queenly posture and slender fingers, execute a dizzying rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee.

images-1As the last notes faded, she inclined her head graciously, holding the pose for several seconds. Chapel light gleamed on her honey-blonde curls; her cheeks glowed a beguiling pink.

I wanted that talent.

Will little Janet’s pursuit of a talent be realized?
Does she understand what talent is?
Does it matter?
Tune in next week to find out!


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