Friday, August 4, 2006

August, 2006: Late to piano lessons

We’ve come rather late to music lessons. I’m not a musical person myself, and while my husband had years of piano lessons, I’m the one who generally scans the recreation department booklet for summer and after-school activities, signs the kids up and carts them to and fro. With soccer, baseball, swim lessons and an endless parade of birthday parties, I thought our plate was full enough, and I didn’t pursue music. It wasn’t even a conscious choice, completely. It was an idea that fell off my radar. (And if truth be told, after it fell off, it was probably run over by the minivan as I backed out of the driveway to yet one more sports practice.)
            Last summer, though, we moved in across the street from Hy Pitt, a retired man with a gregarious personality and strong opinions.
            “Your children should be taking piano lessons,” he told me one day.
I told him if he could work it out for me that I wouldn’t have to drive them one more place, I would be happy to sign them up.
            So it came to be that Jacob and Liam are receiving weekly piano lessons from 80-something Hy Pitt. Shortly after the boys started their lessons, Bill’s parents decided their piano would get more use at our house than at theirs.
            So now we have two boys who have each had approximately 30 piano lessons. And the theme of our home is Beethoven’s “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”
            A relatively easy melody, “Joyful, Joyful” is the first song Jacob received from Hy that he had actually heard before. Hy uses either his or his children’s old piano songbooks to teach the boys, which means easy children’s songs popular in the fifties, when his children were young, or in the twenties, when he was young. Either way, our boys had never heard of the songs they were playing until “Joyful, Joyful.” Liam isn’t quite up to the “Joyful, Joyful,” level yet, and is still playing songs about random ducks or “crunchy flakes.” A child of the 70’s, I have never heard of them, either.
             The strange thing about Jacob’s piano habits, though, is he never sits down for a half-hour of practice. Instead, he grabs a few minutes here or there, and pounds out “Joyful, Joyful.” Often, he chooses to practice just as we are about to leave for an activity. Faster at finding and tying his shoes than his little brother and sister, he is ready to go a couple minutes before them. Transition times are not Jamie and Liam’s best periods of the day, so the scene becomes a strange mix of screaming and fussing to classical music.
            Joyful, joyful, we adore thee.
            “Liam, get your shoes on now!”
            God of mercy, Lord of love.
            “I can’t find them. They’re gone. Oh, Jamie has one! Give that back!”  
            Hearts unfold like flowers before thee.
            “Jamie, give Liam his shoe, please.”
            Opening to their sun, above.
            Eventually, all shoes are on the correct children, and “Joyful” is abandoned as we rush to another sports practice or something.
            Later in the day, Jacob will hit the piano again — at a different transition time — say, Jamie and Liam’s bedtime, which is forty-five minutes earlier than his. For whatever reason, my mind always picks up on the line he left off on last time he played. I guess this is helpful, as it provides a different background for the fussing.
            Melt the clouds of sin and sadness.
            “She walked into the bathroom WITHOUT KNOCKING!”
            Drive the dark of doubt away.
            “My toothbrush!”
            Giver of immortal gladness
            “No, that is MINE. I don’t want YOUR GERMS!”
            Fill us with the light of day.
            Sometimes, I notice that if Jamie and Liam’s argument escalates, Jacob plays faster. It’s all Bill and I can do to get the two little ones in bed before they are launched into orbit by sheer emotion, and I worry that Jacob could actually break the piano by playing too hard and too fast. 
            Every so often, though, when all things align, Liam and Jamie have a transitional moment that gives me a glimpse of hope. Jacob’s playing slows, becomes beautiful, and I am so thankful that when I backed over the potential for music lessons, I did not crush them completely.
            Thou art giving
            “Goodnight, Jamie. Could I have a hug?”
            And forgiving.
            “I love you, Liam.”
            Ever blessing
            “I love you, too.”
            Ever blest.

            Ever blessed, indeed. Not because things are always joyful, joyful. But because every once in awhile, hearts do unfold.

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