Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ivory Silence

I'm linking up with The Red Dress Club today, but I am also guest posting at Four Plus An Angel


RemembeRED
This week's assignment was to write a post about a sound or scent that brings you right back to your past.

*Disclaimer - my wonderful writing partner and editor did not get a chance to see this. It was a last minute submission and therefore she should not be stoned for missing my standard errors.


**Below I speak of a song. To hear my favorite interpretation click HERE



Ivory notes of "What Child Is This" hung in the air and every part of me wanted to snatch the harmony back. My fingers poised in perfect position.

Trained. Willing. Stopped.

I look back now and I see that it had been a hard day. I now have children so I understand the pushed feeling. Today I have no recollection of what was said, how it started or how it ended. I only know that moment.

My dad had spoken sharply to me. He wanted me to stop playing the piano.

I had been at this song for almost the full amount of time that was set on the oven timer. Rushing through the notes as I always did for the achingly slow Christmas Carol. For me it wasn't about perfecting the song, it was about giving it my own rhythm. Fur Elise came out like a rock song for me. Putting On The Ritz I spun into lounge music. I even learned how to hang over backwards on the hard piano bench and play upside down; never looking at the keys. Someone else wrote the song, but it was mine to interpret. I loved when I finally heard me in every song.

I am not sure that I was the first to express interest in piano lessons. I remember the looming box always sitting in the corner and one day I began to play. Next thing I remember is sitting beside Ms. Watson getting my knuckles hit over and over while my mom waited in the car at the curb. Ms. Watson and her gnarled fingers couldn't play much anymore herself, but a stern, wise teacher she was. She had a way of coaxing me to let the music play through me. Instead of focusing on Allegretto or Adiago, she instructed me to play the beat of my heart.

She would chastise me for watching the clock at times, impatient to get on with life.

"Bloom where you are planted." she would say.

I have always hated that saying. I don't believe a palm tree can bloom just because it is planted in the arctic. I believe sometimes you have to decide where you are best suited and pull up your own roots. Bloom because you are so happy with where you are that you can't help but unfurl your petals.

That hard wooden bench was certainly not where my energetic body wanted to be planted, but bloom I did. I learned each song, each note was a feeling. I could make it whisper as a lover, welcome you as a friend or cry out in personal torture. I took each troubled emotion that a maturing girl stumbles into and poured it into a song.

With all my passion for the notes I could caress, I couldn't bring myself to put another finger down that moment. I felt my bloom fade a little and my petals begin to pull back in.

I sat in silence and he moved on to do something else. My timer hadn't gone off yet releasing me to perform anything else, so I starred a hole into the sheet music.

I tentatively struck a note and paused. In my next breath, the haunting notes of the song began to come alive. Slow and with purpose. As the song wove into the air, my tears finally began to fall. The melody of disappointment.

Disappointment in self.

Disappointment in a parent.

The song reaches out year after year through the radio or through my own fingers. The slow notes still contain an ache, but I've come to embrace the feeling. I allow the sadness to wash through me and recognize that although disappointment is a part of this life, its not the ending note.

People will fail you.

You will fail others.

I have the choice to continue playing, for me alone. To make every life song my own and bloom.

*Author's notes: In the note I do not want it mistaken that my father and I have a turmoiled relationship. This was merely a take on the prompt. My daddy and I are good! This was a moment that my dad was having a hard time (as adults get from time to time) and I had my heart on my sleeve (as young girls get from time to time)
Also, one of my favorite moments with Ms. Watson was years after I stopped taking lessons from her. I was volunteering at a nursing home and ran into her, a new resident. In the lobby there was a piano and we sat down together. I played a few songs for her and showed her that although she had quit instructing me; I never quit learning. At that time I was deep into teenage rebellion, but beside her at that moment...I bloomed.

35 comments:

Erin said...

I've always wanted to learn to play piano, and It's nice to see that you play for yourself and you bloom!

Love to read your writings, you do such a beautiful job!

Galit Breen said...

Oh. You do always manage to grab onto a piece of my soul with your writing. And this was no exception.

From the harsh words spoken to the growing where you are planted to disappointment, this was truly breathtaking.

This line: " I now have children so I understand the pushed feeling. Today I have no recollection of what was said, how it started or how it ended. I only know that moment." resonates.

This line: " In my next breath, the haunting notes of the song began to come alive. Slow and with purpose. As the song wove into the air, my tears finally began to fall. The melody of disappointment." is poetry.

This is a gorgeous read.

Varda said...

Wow, really lovely, and sad, and... powerful. Wow.

Jack said...

The song reaches out year after year through the radio or through my own fingers. The slow notes still contain an ache, but I've come to embrace the feeling. I allow the sadness to wash through me and recognize that although disappointment is a part of this life, its not the ending note.

That was the culmination of the piece- at least for me.

Nancy C said...

I learned each song, each note was a feeling. I could make it whisper as a lover, welcome you as a friend or cry out in personal torture. I took each troubled emotion that a maturing girl stumbles into and poured it into a song.

This is such a lovely way to show your relationship with the piano, this creative outlet you've found.

I, too, took piano lessons and understand how it can be a conversation between your soul and the keys.

I also adore the entire bit about playing and blooming...the heart of this piece.

tracy said...

I always enjoy your writing. This piece completely captivated me. I felt your emotions so strongly.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

You've done it again. Your writing moves me every time I read it.

I too am haunted by this song though it has always been a favorite. I eventually learned to play it on the guitar, the beautiful tune shared by the song Greensleeves.

"Someone else wrote the song, but it was mine to interpret. I loved when I finally heard me in every song.".... YES YES YES!

Home In The Hollow said...

What a beautiful piece of reality. Excellent as ALWAYS!...:)JP

Leughann said...

Beautifully written.
"Bloom because you are so happy with where you are that you can't help but unfurl your petals."
Is my favorite line and I never want to forget it

Honest Convo Gal said...

I took piano from when I was 5 until sometime in HS. I think I quit my freshman year. My rear end could feel the hard bench as I read your piece. I could hear the tick, tick, tick, of the egg timer my parents set for me. A good piece of memoir writing not only allows the reader a glimpse into your past, but it also helps them find a truth or reflect on some piece of their own. You did this beautifully here. Very nice job.

Penbleth said...

This is just outstanding, you are a wonderful writer. You made this moment alive.

I have visions of my sister playing One Man Went To Mow for half an hour because my dad told her she couldn't get up until she practised that long, it was her punishment to him. Dad was begging her to stop by the end.

Jenna said...

I agree with both Galit and Jack in the achingness and the culmination aspects. This was poetical, and raw, and emotionally complex.. and how the piece you played haunts you a little bit emotionally. It's going in my spotlight list for next Saturday, you are a magnificent storyteller.

livingsj77 said...

Wow, this is really powerful. I could totally picture you sitting at a piano, pounding out a Christmas carol. Love this post. And love how you turned it around in the end, made it positive.

KLZ said...

I crushed my mother so badly one day. I didn't mean to.

I'd recently had a baby and made some little mistake with him. I think I let him stay in his pajamas too long. She told me I was passing on my bad habits to him.

I shrugged and told her "that's what happens. Parents make mistakes. Parents pass on bad traits."

She looked like I slapped her. Because I'd forgotten that she was MY mother and she may have been wondering about her own mistakes.

It happens. We all hate admitting it though.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

First off, I'm really impressed by this hanging upside down business!

Oh, you capture that feeling of failure so well, and with so few words. Nicely done!

Joy said...

"Someone else wrote the song, but it was mine to interpret. I loved when I finally heard me in every song."

I never got to that point with music, though I loved it. I think true artists interpret music until they hear themselves in it. I was just a copyist.

You packed so much into this story. Inspiring and empathy and sadness... wow. My own little attempt feels really silly now! I guess we start somewhere. :) I'm so glad I stopped by to read yours.

Kim said...

Your post makes me wish I hadn't been such a quitter with my lessons. I've put you on my sidebar so I can enjoy your writing on a regular basis.

Tiffany said...


I tentatively struck a note and paused. In my next breath, the haunting notes of the song began to come alive. Slow and with purpose. As the song wove into the air, my tears finally began to fall. The melody of disappointment.

Disappointment in self.

Disappointment in a parent.

The song reaches out year after year through the radio or through my own fingers. The slow notes still contain an ache, but I've come to embrace the feeling. I allow the sadness to wash through me and recognize that although disappointment is a part of this life, its not the ending note.

People will fail you.

You will fail others.


These words are what caught me in my throat. It's a powerful read and touches me to the core.

amygrew said...

I loved how you changed the music to fit you. Wonderful.

singedwingangel said...

Just absolutely beautiful and soul grabbing. I could feel that pain as your father made his statement.. and the ability to put it someplace else, in the music .. just beautiful ..

Elaine A. said...

The way you weave words together is just so amazing.

And I took a lot from you talking about "bloom where you are planted" because that was my motto when we moved here in 2009. I HAD to bloom or I might have withered away... That part really hits home with me.

Wonderful writing friend.

Sonora said...

Oh, as a parent this tugs my heart. How many things do we do absentmindedly that hurt our kids? I love how you described making the music come alive to you and making it your own. I am amazed by that talent. I don't have it, but admire those that do. I have fond memories of listening to my sister change Fur Elise into a jazz song. :)
I loved this paragraph:
I have always hated that saying. I don't believe a palm tree can bloom just because it is planted in the arctic. I believe sometimes you have to decide where you are best suited and pull up your own roots. Bloom because you are so happy with where you are that you can't help but unfurl your petals.

I couldn't agree more. Good job!

isaywhatimean said...

This is so gorgeous, and I went there with you. I'm a pianist as well, and that pull that the keys have over your fingers is something that's hard to explain - but you captured it well. It's almost as if your hands are there, they have no choice but to play.

Playing through tears... such a striking image.

I'm not sure about the paragraph where you discredit "bloom where you grow." I agree with you, loving the idea of pulling up your roots - but it reads like an aside and doesn't quite go with the picture of the little girl planted on the piano bench.

Great work!

Miranda said...

"Bloom where you are planted.

I have always hated that saying. I don't believe a palm tree can bloom just because it is planted in the arctic. I believe sometimes you have to decide where you are best suited and pull up your own roots. Bloom because you are so happy with where you are that you can't help but unfurl your petals."

That, for me, was perfection. This so adequately describes the way parents sometimes push children to be who they are not. When you talked of your sadness later, I felt it.

Good job!

Julie said...

Over the years, I don't think it was the disappointment of my parents - at least that I could remember - but rather the disappointment I perceived and created in my own self.

I never bloomed into what I could or should have... and to this day, I still take on things that are not what I am supposed to do, things that drain me, things that make me die a little on the inside with every breath, thought and glance that passes.

Somehow your post drew this out for me, and I realize I have to take my roots - and plant them where I will be able to bloom. Thank you.

DaisyGal said...

I am also jealous of those who can play the piano, to be able to leave all their emotions on those black and white keys.

I can only agree that the bloom where you you are planted paragraph is pure poetry and a reminder to us as parents to let our children be who they are, to bloom in the way they ought to reaching out to the light and to world with their own arms.

Lovely, lovely. As always.

Pua said...

"Bloom because you are so happy with where you are that you can't help but unfurl your petals"

Love it. Makes me feel like the sun is shining on my skin.

Adelle said...

I wrote a post this week with "Bloom where you're planted in the title."

I also grew up taking piano lessons. So much of this I could relate to - the timer, the rushing when you should be slow and dragging when it should be fast. Piano and forte. Legato. Fortissimo!

My mother's favorite carol was also What Child is This and now that she's gone it holds a bittersweet note for me. I loved this line: "As the song wove into the air, my tears finally began to fall. The melody of disappointment."

Exquisite!

mamatrack.com said...

This was so honest. I love that you shared an authentic moment with your family. All parents make mistakes, and this post shows such acceptance of your wonderful dad.

I love the section where you describe actually playing the piece. And how you show us how you made the songs your own.

Karen said...

Such an honest piece. I remember the rigidity I felt, learning piano, to follow the notes on the page. Funny that when it came to singing, I felt free to play with them as much as I liked! I love how you ended this, especially the last line, "I have the choice to continue playing, for me alone. To make every life song my own and bloom." Yes, we do have choices and knowing that we do, even when we don't like what the choices are, gives us freedom to fly....or bloom. :>

Rivster said...

She had a way of coaxing me to let the music play through me. Instead of focusing on Allegretto or Adiago, she instructed me to play the beat of my heart.

You had me with these two lines. This the most important thing that a teacher can impart. Anyone can figure out the notes ;)

And I say that as Music Major and someone who struggled through thirteen years of piano lessons.

Brandon Duncan said...

Beautiful. The End. ;)

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

Oh so beautiful. It makes me want to learn the piano, just to compose my own versions of songs!

Renee said...

I like how the songs become yours. And the way you wove notes into life.
As you did in that moment find a little bit of your sad self.

Stacey said...

Oh this made me cry. I relate to this piece so much. I poured so much of my teenage angst into the piano. If it weren't for that, I'm not sure where my outlet would have been. I too am a pianist and we still have a piano and I teach some of my children. I'm not sure any of them will ever have the same love for it that I do, but I can hope. Beautiful piece.

(BTW, my sister, Sonora(twinfinity), sent me over here to read this piece. I'm so glad she did!)

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