Monday, April 28, 2008

Hey, I was right, that WAS interesting!

I won't tell you how old mom is, but I don't mind telling you that I am 39. (No really, I'm 39, I turn 40 later this year.) So that means mom is, well, at least 39. That is, she's of the generation, she tells me, where it was more or less assumed that you would learn to play piano. Whether you had any talent for it was irrelevant. You would play, and that was that. She learned to play on her mother's ancient (albeit less so at the time) upright, probably not too different from the one on which Jillian and I pound. Thing is, while I always knew mom played (or had played) the piano, I took this factoid on faith... I myself had never, in my 39 years, ever heard her play.

So on Friday afternoon, Jillian sat down and went through her little repertoire. Mom (well, Grandma) was dutifully impressed in her Grandmotherly way... which is to say, not the least bit patronising, but genuinely and happily impressed. I tried to busy myself with grilling steaks and whatnot, as I didn't want to hover, and I really didn't want to show her my stuff. But eventually I relented and muddled through a couple of things. I know Cockles and Mussels is pretty much as good as it gets for me, so I played that. Then a couple of the blues pieces. Wish I'd been able to record Got Those Blues for you, because I really did well on that one. Then Little Brown Jug and Chiapanecas, to demonstrate what it sounds like when I don't quite have something mastered. Then back to the steaks.

And from inside the house, I hear someone playing Chiapanecas like they've been doing it their entire life. I go inside, and of course, it's mom. "Holy Cow, she's sight-reading the stuff that is giving me such fits!" Didn't even look at her hands, just stared at the music, and rendered it. She turns to the end of the book, and busts out a near perfect Amazing Grace. "Wow, this is fun, what else do you have?" Well, as you may recall, I have Alfred's Book Two, so I turned to the end of that and challenged her with the variations on Pachelbel's Canon. No problem at all. It was nice to have real piano music in the house, for a change.

She tried to pass it off modestly. "I guess I must have had a lot of piano lessons when I was a kid." But it was truly impressive. What I can't stress enough is that she hasn't touched a piano, as far as I know, in at least 40 years. And judging by the stories I hear of her jet-setting ways in the 1960's, probably much longer than that.

So props to you, mom, for having the mad skillz. Wonder if it skips a generation?

I was unable to coax her into entering the bidding for that Astin-Weight, unfortunately. I guess my offer to store the piano for her, and keep it properly tuned and regulated, wasn't quite as compelling in real life as it sounded in my head. Bidding ended at $107, short (far short, I'd guess) of the reserve price. This story may not be over, though... the more trouble they have in selling a 20 year old, never-been-owned piano, the more likely it is, I'd think, that I can talk them significantly down from their $8,000 asking price. You know, if it comes to that. I still haven't seen it in person, or played it yet, of course... it might sound like a clanging gong for all I know. But it looks nice, is a well-regarded (mostly) manufacturer, and would go well in this crafstman-style house we're building.

Speaking of which, drywall is up and primed, and they are putting the finishing touches on the floors this week. Serious progress.


Michelle Himes said...

It sounds like your mom is about my age, but I didn't grow up in a neighborhood where everyone took piano lessons. My dad took violin lessons as a kid though, and when my daughter started violin in 4th grade, Dad picked her 3/4 size violin up and played it pretty well for someone who also hadn't touched an instrument in over 40 years. Amazing. I forget where the notes are from one day to the next.

Always Wanted to Play Piano said...

Mom did violin, too. She said she was relegated to her closet for violin practice for the first year or so. I think that's sort of funny.