Missing Beethoven

Growing up, my mom and I utilized public transportation in the city where we lived. The townhouse apartment that I called home for 8 years of my life was situated on a suburban-like corner on a busy street that was the central point of four bus routes. When I was in fourth grade, my mom asked me “Do you think I should buy a car or do you think I should buy a piano?” Thanks to some audio tapes featuring classical composers that we purchased on a grocery trip to Safeway, my impressionable fourth grade mind immediately responded “piano!” I remember my mom and I stopped by the Baldwin store in Carytown. I remember the huge showroom featuring uprights and grands galore. I remember being so excited that we could bring one of those beautiful, glossy instruments home with us. I remember the sales people at the other piano place who looked at us as if we didn’t belong there, approaching us with a tentative “Can I help you with something?” The Baldwin store was different. There were no snooty salesmen looking over their thin wire frames at us.

I remember my mother expressing that we were in the market for piano. I don’t remember all of the details but I do remember sitting at the pianos playing “This is the Day” and “Joy to the World”. I vaguely remember the salesman and my mother talking about the space we had available in our apartment and pricing. Not long after that visit, a beautiful cherry finished upright Baldwin was delivered to our apartment.

Even as I line my fingers on my keyboard to type this, I can almost feel the keys of that piano beneath my fingertips. I can almost hear the deep tones that resonated through my 4th grade hands as I played each key from top to bottom and from bottom to top. I only had a few pieces of sheet music from the Christian private school I attended, but mom wouldn’t let that limit me. We looked up the names of the classical pieces we enjoyed on the audio tapes and searched for them at the local university library on a Saturday afternoon. I had a very basic ability to read music and play by ear, but that didn’t stop me from “plucking those keys” as my father would say. And pluck I did! During the summer holiday I would sleep in late, eat breakfast and play the piano for hours. Since I had listened to my favorite songs over and over, I knew them by heart and could hear the notes in my head. I sat at that piano stool humming “Fur Elise”, “Moonlight Sonata” and others as I painstakingly tried my hand at sight reading. I was horrible at sightreading (I still am), but was quick to memorize a song. When I finally learned “Fur Elise” I called my mom at work and played it for her. I called my aunt Bettie and my dad and left my beautiful rendition on their answering machines. And last but not least, I called grandma who listened quietly as I messed up a few times. At the conclusion of my mini-concert she said her famous line “I’m so proud of you, Bran.” My aunt Bettie believed we should celebrate (she was always trying to celebrate something!) and purchased a bust of Beethoven for our piano. We still have that bust to this day. :o) (Pictured above)My mother couldn’t afford formal lessons, but I continued to purchase sheet music and pluck away. The last piece of music I purchased was for the Mission Impossible theme. I still hold it within my possession along with the other pieces I purchased over the years (Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies songbook, etc). Why? I’m not sure.

Fifteen years later and I still think of that piano that began to grow dusty as I picked up more interests and grew older. While still in grade school I began to put my imagination on paper, writing short stories and poetry as if writing were about to become extinct. Around the same time we purchased the piano I discovered I had the ability to draw cartoon characters. So over the next 10 years I had less and less time for practice. I spent most of my time drawing, writing singing in a choir or other group or studying foreign languages (another post in itself!).

So in 1999, after several years of sporadic usage, we sold the piano. Believe me though. I didn’t want to part with it. It was my senior year of high school. My mother had just resigned from her job and was believing God for another. At the beginning of the school year we’d made a down-payment for me to go to Paris with the European Travel Club at my school. Money was tight and the deadline for the remainder of the fees was looming ahead. One day my mom and I had a talk and we came to the conclusion that the only thing to be done: we had to sell the piano. I didn’t cry when it was time to say goodbye, but I would miss it. I still miss it, but its absence paved the way for a new experience for me: Paris.

Sometimes our interests change. Sometimes they take a backseat to others, waiting their turn to take center stage again. Some interests have just taken a backseat…..

In the meantime…I’m missing the sound of Beethoven….

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