By Janice Lindsay
I remember one moment when the world, at least my world, rested in perfect harmony. This wasn’t my only such moment, but it was the earliest I remember of experiencing that sweet contentment that occurs when everything is in its place.
When my sister and I were little, our parents played piano. They had a tiny band, playing for weekly square dances at the village dance hall on the lake. Usually they were joined by a saxophone player and a drummer, sometimes a fiddler, sometimes a banjo player. But the piano was the musical anchor, necessary for every set of three square dances followed by three ballroom dances. The work was too demanding physically for one pianist; our parents took turns.
They practiced piano at home. Cheryl and I heard each of them play. But the true delight came when they played together.
On this day of my memory, we were all in the “sunporch,” a front porch that had been converted to a long narrow year-round room with the addition of windowed walls. Cheryl and I played a quiet game at one end of the sunny room, as my parents seated themselves before the upright piano at the other.
They were about to practice a duet, our petite mother on the high notes, our tall, angular father at the low notes.
There was a moment of hesitation, of preparation. Then the first lively notes of “Nola” burst forth. Even now, Cheryl and I can still hear the tune.
At that moment, all became well and right. We were all four together. Cheryl and I were at peace which each other, which we were usually but not always. Our parents sat close together on the piano bench, four hands dancing in perfect rhythm. All was harmonious and good, all the pieces of our universe in their proper places. The music bound us together in a loving family circle.
Such moments of rightness shine bright in memory, perhaps because they don’t happen very often.
I was reminded of this moment the other day as I sat at my computer. The house was quiet. Suddenly I heard a rich deep note being played repeatedly on my own little upright piano. But I knew that the cover was down over the keyboard. Much to my shame, I had not played my piano in months, and not regularly in years. At that time, it was just another piece of furniture, displaying books and Christmas cards.
Our energetic cat Peanut, engaged in some inventive moment of her own, had apparently leaped up to reach for something below the keyboard. She had caught one paw in the one-inch gap between the back of the bottom of the keybed and the top of the lower front board. In attempting to extricate herself, she was plucking one of the strings and “playing” my piano.
While I freed Peanut, I pondered the loveliness of that round, sweet tone. I remembered how rich with piano music our early years were, while our father was still well enough to play. Even after he was gone, and my mother remarried, and we ultimately had four little brothers and a sister, wherever we lived, the house was full of music. I contributed, practicing through 10 years of piano lessons.
But the music never held quite the same contentment as that one rich moment of my remembrance.
Peanut’s one-note misadventure connected me again with that long-ago day. It reminded me that I really must get that old piano tuned, learn to play again, and hold tight to that connection.