Friday, November 6, 2009

The Chapter With Our Music

The piano arrived yesterday, and I'm full of anticipation.

This is the piano I grew up playing. I spent hours in my early years taking lessons, making up tunes, giving lessons to littler kids, releasing stress, and generally enjoying the music. Unfortunately, come middle school, I gave up lessons in favor of more exciting endeavors like sports and talking on the phone with friends.

This is okay, and my parents were right to allow me this decision: surely if they had insisted I keep playing, I would have hated it. But now in my adult years, I wish I had continued. I think this is a common refrain of grown-ups: if only I had...

Now, I sit on the bench that suddenly feels small to play familiar music I had mastered once upon a childhood, and it feels like becoming reacquainted with a part of myself. In high school, when the stress became too much to handle, I would find myself drawn to the white and black keys, playing in a reverie the demands of the world could not surmount. After, I could return to whatever task or stress had driven me there and begin--focused, grounded, at peace. Music does that for me...and always has.

It probably began in a childhood full of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who could sing. Driving to and from destinations during family reunions, I forgot myself in the harmonies produced by a handful of voices singing old hymns, revival songs, soul food. Someone would start and the rest would join until the car had been transformed into a miniscule foretaste of the Revelation vision: all creation singing before the throne, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty," in full understanding of the glory and mercy and grace poured out to all mankind.

And then in middle school, another revelation: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Guns 'n Roses...rock music. I found a voice for other parts of me as I awoke to the complexities of the world.

Now that I'm older, I realize most--if not all--music, speaks at least in part from the same sacred voice, where some element of longing, fear, anger, or loss is transformed into faith, hope, love, and joy. Somehow. Just as my time at the piano in my youth made sense of my world. Music translates that which the soul cannot speak and the mind cannot fully define into a language universally understood--or at least recognized.

Well, now this piano sits against the wall in my basement. I have to make myself not go to it when other responsibilities call. It feels like yet another chapter in my life beginning: the chapter that holds the music I create, and already, the music of the children. Ben could not tear himself away from it yesterday. I showed him middle C, taught him the alphabet names of the keys up and down the board, and described how the notes on the page correspond to the ivory.

He asked me to listen to his songs, and he ran his fingers along the keys in the rhythm of tunes he knows while singing along. And then he began making up his own songs--sweet, thoughtful, worshipful melodies from his own tender heart. When Josh arrived last night, Ben immediately invited him downstairs to see his new prized possession and to show off his budding piano skills.

I am happy to have this part of my life back. I'm rusty and now so aware of how much I don't know. But contrary to how I might have felt at other times in my life, I don't feel it's too late to learn. I hope to take lessons again, to master the scales and technicalities I managed to avoid when I was younger thanks to a good ear and some natural musicality, and to appreciate more fully the gift.

And if Ben or Abby wants to learn, I will do whatever I can to foster their desire. Ben, who has said on numerous occasions that he would like to play the guitar or the trumpet or the violin or the drums or whatever instrument happens to be on his brain at the moment, now has a vehicle to begin learning this new language: A,B,C,D,E,F,G in infinite arrangements, time in its varying meters, and all of it in the context of his tempo, his crescendos and diminuendos, his love.

I hope the piano lives a central existence in our home. As Abby and I drove this morning, she asked if she could "pay duh pih-ya-no" when we got home. And she ran straight to it when we walked in the door. Now Ben has come down from his nap and asked if we can play the piano together.

So begins this chapter...

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