I remember one moment when the world, at least my little world, rested in perfect harmony. This wasn’t my only such moment, but the earliest I remember of knowing the sweet contentment of everything in its proper place.
When my sister and I were little, our parents played piano. They led a tiny orchestra, playing each summer for weekly dances at the village hall on the lake. Usually they were joined by a saxophone player, 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, so our parents took turns.
They practiced 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 sun porch, a long narrow front porch that had been converted to a year-round room with the addition of insulated, windowed walls. Cheryl and I quietly played with our dolls at one end of the sunny room, as our parents seated themselves on the bench of our 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.
A moment of preparation, hesitation, anticipation.
Then the first lively notes of “Nola” burst forth. Even now, Cheryl and I can hear that tune being played in that moment.
All became right. We were all together. Cheryl and I were at peace with each other, which we were usually but not always. Our parents sat close together, four hands dancing in perfect synchronicity, filling the air with music. All was harmonious and good, all pieces of our universe in their proper places. The music bound us together in a loving family circle.
I was reminded of this moment not long ago 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. I knew that the cover was closed over the keyboard. Much to my shame, I had not played my piano in months, and not regularly in years. It was just a piece of furniture, a place to display books and greeting cards.
The mystery pianist was my energetic cat, Peanut. Engaged in some inventive moment of her own, she had apparently leaped up to reach for something below the keyboard. She had caught one paw in the one-inch gap between the bottom of the key bed and the top of the lower front board. In trying to extricate herself, she was plucking one of the strings and playing my piano.
As I freed Peanut, I pondered the loveliness of that round, sweet tone. I remembered how rich we were in piano music during those early years, while our father was still well enough to play. Even after he died, and our mother remarried, and we ultimately had four little brothers and a baby 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.
Since then, I’ve had my old piano tuned. I’m learning to play again. Every time I play, I relive that moment of perfect harmony, when all was well in our little world.
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