When I was five years old my parents bought me a huge, HEAVY 19th century piano. They placed it in the formal dining room of our house. I sat at that thing for hours. I loved it. One day my mom walked by and heard me playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She said, "Anita, how did you learn that?" I told her "Mommy, I hear the music in my head." [Or so the story goes.]
That was the beginning of my love affair with music. I started piano lessons and went for a few years. I won a talent show with a self-composed duet called "Blue Hippos and Pink Elephants" (wish I still remembered it!). Music was my "thing."
I never did get serious about piano lessons. My parents didn't make me continue when I told them I wanted to quit. [We could go back and forth on that philosophy.] But piano continued to be my go-to thing. On a sad day I could sit and create a somber piece of music. On a good day I could work hard to master a written piece.
In 6th grade I started band and chose the French Horn. I also accompanied the orchestra on piano throughout middle school. I excelled at French Horn and because of that, it became the thing I was known for. I did music in every way I could (choir, bell choir, orchestra, band). In 7th grade I decided I wanted to become a music teacher.
In high school it was the same thing. French Horn. But also musical leadership. I was drum major from 10th grade forward. I went to Drum Major camp--I know, the dorkiest thing ever but I thought it was so cool!!! I was the all-city marching band drum major too. Music. Leadership. French Horn.
When I was 16 and the piano seemed like an old musty friend, I sold it. I sold that huge 'ol thing, for $250....to help me buy a car. [On my list of biggest regrets.]
I attended the University of Oklahoma and majored in Music Education, playing the French Horn. I met my husband in The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band! In my sophomore year I became "section leader" of the horns in marching band. It was also in my sophomore year that I learned of my passion for early childhood music education. It's a WHOLE different ballgame than teaching instrumental music. I started tailoring my education to include master's level classes, since there were no undergraduate classes for early childhood music education.
Even though everything in my life was centered around French Horn and teaching, the piano was still there. On sad days I still ran to the piano for comfort. The piano was still my place to CREATE music. Thank goodness for the pianos in the practice rooms at OU!
I graduated and went on to live my dream--teaching early childhood music at an elementary school. My days were filled with Kodaly and Orff and percussion instruments and teaching recorder to 3rd graders. But during my "planning" periods I was often at the piano. It was my time to de-frag and remember the magic of music.
Within a few years Eric and I had started our family, and teaching was no longer the priority. It was time to move on to the next step in my life--staying home with my children, and assisting families with adoption. Without a piano.
I've been without a piano to play since 1998. It's been a long 12 years! We lived in homes where there was no room. And certainly, a piano is a big investment. Eric and I have gone to the music store and looked at them many times over the years. But it was impractical.
Last year the desire for a piano in our home went to a new level. My kids are at the age where I really wish I could teach them, so that they could have the same "friendship" with the piano that I have always had. And suddenly it was less important that we really didn't have room for a piano. I would MAKE room.
I started looking on Craigslist for a very inexpensive piano. Eric mentioned to his mom that we were on the look out. Without a bit of hesitation she said, "Well, you can have mine." What?! That was in the first few months of this year. I felt incredibly blessed because my MIL's piano is a family heirloom. It's been in her family for about 50 years!
Finally, yesterday, the piano made it to its new home. OUR home! Yes, my living room is super crowded. Yes, the piano desperately needs a tuning. Yes, my fingers have forgotten how to move my fingers up and down the keyboard with grace. But it feels good. My home feels right. I can once again go to the piano on my melancholy days. I can once again train myself to play happy tunes for my family.
I'm not living a musical life day in and day out anymore. The piano will never again play a central role in my life. But it fills a spot in my soul that nothing else on this earth can fill.