Tuesday, March 20, 2007

On Pianos, Husbands and Kids

We had enjoyed a nice evening together as a family. The highlight, or so I thought, was the delicious meal at IHOP. (International House Of Pancakes. By the way, they have other food too.)

As we left the restaurant, Toby took a turn opposite from home. Figuring he was just doing his typical "along for the ride" driving, I didn't think anything of it as we merged into traffic.

Toby has this way of driving at times that would make most people think he was merely a passenger. He'll embark on a journey for the sole purpose of sight seeing or just for the sheer pleasure of going for a ride, but yet he's the driver.

If he happens to be in a turning lane, he'll turn -- even if he has no desire to go down that road. If we drive past an exit on the interstate, often we'll take the exit for no reason. If he gets behind a slow driver on a 4 lane street, sometimes he'll slow down and follow the guy for miles before finally using one of those convenient left lanes.

And he's often hand less too. No matter if traffic is wild or the road is especially slippery he'll perch his wrist on the top of the wheel, relax in his seat and just enjoy the ride while avoiding the cars driving straight or while we slip all over mud, slush and wash boards.

Then, when we come to a turn, it gets even more exciting -- you'd think we were in a semi truck though. We need a sign on the back of our mini van that says "This Vehicle Makes Wide Right Turns." Couple that with a cell phone, triple it with a can of pop and quadruple that by changing the radio station on him, and your time as a passenger will be more thrilling than a roller coaster ride.

Since he's a roofer and notices waves and lines in places most people don't even look, it gets even more scary when he happens to drive past a house with crooked shingles all while drinking a can of pop, talking on his cell phone, switching the radio station AND making a wide right turn with his wrist.

This is a fun experience; I should sell tickets.

Anyway, thinking we were going for one of our typical evening rides, I didn't think anything of the fact that he was on the wrong road to get home.

We were chatting and discussing a quiet, blooming park to take the kids to, The Sunken Gardens. A beautiful, peaceful little city park created for the sole purpose of leisurely walking through while enjoying the millions of bright, fragrant flowers and listening to the sound of a mesmerizing water fall as it flowed several feet down into the center of the garden.

Then he made a wrong turn.

I still didn't think anything of it; he drives like this sometimes when we go to Walmart and that's only 2 minutes from our front door.

I continued to chat, not noticing the lame excuse he made for making that turn: he decided to go to the water falls by the Capitol instead. Figured the kids would enjoy seeing that more than flowers.

Then he circled a city block over and over while looking for a parking spot. The city block was no where near the Capitol.

As he parked, I still didn't think anything of it; he had said he wanted to walk too.

Wishing I had brought the stroller for the long walk between our van and the Capitol's water falls, my mind was in that "I knew I should've done that" mode. I totally didn't notice anything out of the ordinary considering I was regretting the absence of the stroller.

As Toby shut the van off, I reached for the door latch. But, he was looking at me funny.

"What?" I asked him.

"You have no idea, do you?" he asked me.

"No idea about what?" I returned.

"Can't you tell where we are?" he asked me.

Several blocks from our destination, I was thinking but didn't say.

"Um, not really," I slowly said, trying to figure out what was so special about where we were.

"What do you think about getting a new piano?" he finally asked.

"TOBY!!!" I screeched, realizing we were by the music store... "NOT at this music store... we should try to get something used... this would be way too expensive... a used one is just as good... I really don't need a new piano... this store is way too expensive anyway... I've been watching the paper..." I rattled on and on and on.

He finally quieted me down and helped me feel better by saying, "lets just look here and you can at least play several and decide what you want."

I figured that was a safe and cheaper idea than just flat out buying a new piano.

The music store is in one of those old, quaint, high downtown buildings. I love going there. It's swarming with musicians carrying all kinds of instruments in and out of the doors. Everyone is dressed to play the part too and is dressed in a classy yet inexpensive attire. Kind of that "health food store" look. Real natural and down to earth. You can tell they've dedicated their lives to music and seem to dwell in the music scale of their sacred instrument. Their eyes dance with treble clefts and bass clefts as they look at the world and determine which category everything fits in. There's always a new piece of music to learn, a new technique to master and deeper understanding to attain in the instrument of their choice. This music store is the perfect place to indulge in such lofty aspirations.

And there I was, the play-by-ear mommy with a baby on my hip and a husband and young boy in tow. Me, who's only performance had been on the day of my wedding. Yes me, walking among such learned musicians.

The 3rd level was filled with the enchanting pianos. We launched ourselves up the elevator and landed on a past century, high ceiling cathedral looking room. Just through glassed french doors, black grands and white baby grands stood waiting for someone to polish their ivories.

I thought I was in heaven.

I sampled several, even comparing the studio pianos with the sound of the real grand pianos. Nothing I tried was what I was looking for. Toby thought it was the prices discouraging me so reminded me again to just find what I liked for sound quality. But, even ignoring the prices wasn't helping.

Since I play by ear, it's all about sound to me. If the piano's sound alone doesn't appeal to me, I have to learn to get over that before I can make my song sound acceptable to my standard. It's a weird technique but that's how I've always been.

Standing along a far wall positioned behind the more appealing studios and digital pianos, stood an old 1800's looking monster of a piano. The varnish was faded, the wood was a beat up and keys were nothing pretty. I ran my fingers over it's dull, peeling keys knowing that it's only the uprights that bear the true sound of good piano.

The sound was lovely.

Toby happened to walk up just then with this look of, "why are you touching that thing?"

"THIS is what I want," I beamed at him, while the piano completely lent it's sound board to my tripping and unpracticed fingers. I could tell this piano wanted to be played.

"You like THAT?" he asked me while blinking and comparing it to the beauty of the studio pianos sitting close by.

"This is the only piano that sounds right," I told him, while playing on the high keys.

He was in a predicament. The last thing he wanted was a beast of an instrument to haul around for the next 50 years of his life. (Our aim is 50 years of marriage -- after that, we'll go for another 50.) In order to move this thing 2 inches, you'd need a work crew. It would be equal in size to adding an addition on our house. But of course it would take precious floor space in our already crowded house.

I could see a look of concern and fear coupled with shock on his face. The piano I admitted was a little ugly but the sound was all that mattered to me.

Toby came up with a compromise. (I think he was desperate.)

"Try one of the higher-end digital pianos," he suggested. "You can always change their sound and the way they play."

I agreed with him since what he said was true. Plus, the size of this thing was enough to scare anyone away and I knew size mattered to Toby since he'd be the one in charge of hauling it around. But, I wondered if the digital feature was appealing to him because it fell into a computer category. As long as it sounded nice though, I didn't care.

He directed me towards a substantial looking digital piano. It sounded good and I deemed it well enough, considering with a little tweaking, the sound could easily be improved. So could the hammer action. Little did I know that the owner's manual that would come with that piano was equal in size to a phone book. But, certainly with all those buttons and gadgets and dials, you could create a sound equal or superb to one of the grand pianos sitting near by, even if you didn't read the directions.

"I'll take it," I said. And Toby sighed.

The piano came the next morning. An old man and a overweight middle aged man huffed and puffed it through the door in the rain. I knew Toby would be impressed with how light it obviously was -- the delivery guys definitely didn't play the part of what you'd think a piano delivery guy would look like.

My new piano was beautiful. I loved it. During nap time that day, I spent hours playing and recording and learning my new piano. It was so fun, I hardly got a thing done that day. Everyday after that I would spend my spare time enjoying the thrill of the piano's perfect ivories.

Soon my children became infected with my zeal for this piano. Landon learned how to get "The Muffin Man" to play on it. Janae learned how to permanently delete sound clips. Landon also learned how to plug the "microwave" (microphone) into the plug-ins and sing heartily. Janae enjoyed pushing the buttons and changing the screen display light to completely white. Once Landon put "Piano Lock" on the piano and I had to resort to the owner's manual in order to unlock it.

As I'm sure you can understand, eventually I had to sneak my piano playing in if I wanted to spend any quality time on it.

Just last night, I gave into the urge to play a tune and suddenly out of no where, two little people arrived, absorbed in the enchantment of the open and "on" piano.

Landon plugged his microwave in and began to bounce along to "Jesus Loves Me."

Janae tried selecting the "8" button just above the high keys but grew increasingly emotional when I discouraged her from touching the setting.

While I attended to Janae, Landon reached behind me and managed to change the piano sound to a weird organ/piano combo and dropped the keys down an octave or two. I think he reads the owner's manual in his spare time; he knows how to change settings and styles that I don't even know exist.

After I set it back by shutting off the piano and restarting it, Janae was back and climbing on the bench next to me.

Before she managed to fall off, I carefully set her on the floor next to me while Landon tinkered with his microwave and took it apart.

I put his microphone back together and quickly set a jolly tune to play before something else drastic happened.

Stepping away from the open piano for just a second, enabled my children the opportunity they were waiting for.

Landon got a jolly "If You're Happy And You Know It" playing while Janae drooled her half-chewed apple all over the display screen and thumped along with the song.

While I attempted to wipe the screen quickly with my skirt, I was finding my a-line jumper just didn't seem to reach. I was desperate though since the juice could perhaps seep into some seam or crack somewhere and then my beautiful piano would be tainted with souring apple juice. I was about ready to pull the hem of my skirt up but realized that my pregnant belly would make it almost impossible to reach the screen. Just then I noticed a fresh dribble of drool on several white, shiny keys, near middle "C."

Right at that time, Landon switched the song and Janae tripped over the microwave cord.

By now, it was getting a bit scary for the piano. I let the piano play but shut it's cover and walked away. Both children were amused by that but yet somewhat offended that they couldn't reach the keys and buttons and dials. How would Landon change the song with the lid down?

They stood close to it, peering intently into the closed seam of the cover. Eventually, Landon carefully lifted it an inch and peered up into the lid like a mechanic looks up into the underside of a car.

"And everyone wonders why I don't play my new piano more often," I mused to Toby. Thankfully, just at that precise moment, bedtime struck.

This piano has always been an exciting ride -- since the day I got it. But, with aspiring pianists blossoming around me, I think I may have to hang up my lofty musician goals until baby drool no longer threatens it's sound board and smart little men learn to leave the notes in a normal octave. Until then, we'll enjoy jolly "Muffin Man" tunes and out of tune "Jesus Loves Me" lyrics in the microwave with the piano lid closed.

Besides learning a handful of songs and figuring out myself how to change the piano sound without resorting to the owner's manual, there's only one thing I've learned since getting this new piano: there's more than one way to play a piano.

And while I continue to learn that way and teach my kids valuable lessons of boundaries and limitations as well as learning the music scale, I'm enjoying the ride but still looking for those peaceful moments to indulge in the beauty of music myself.


Goldfish said...

What an adventure!!!

Anne said...

I laughed so hard at the part where you said Landon read the owner's manual... hee hee hee:o)

Anonymous said...


Rachel said...

I love it, Courtney! You describe our music store so well. Oh, and besides the size and weight of the digital ivories -- just think, you'll never have to tune them! [smile] We so enjoy keeping up with your adventures! My best wishes to your future musicians!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have some real "budding" musicians. Try to capitalize on it while they show such good interest. A. Jean

BrittLeigh said...

That's my little dears for you! :) Neurotic little things... :D