You’re a Lucky Girl
In yet another elementary school memory, this time from kindergarten, our class was on a field trip to downtown Athens to hear a band that was playing in the annual Blue Sky concert. I remember sitting on the ground, knees pulled to my chest, (which must have been my normal sitting position), watching the birds and the clouds, enjoying the sunshine. My teacher came over, knelt beside me, and spoke in my ear, “I like seeing your foot tapping to the music.” I don’t think that I knew my foot was tapping, it was involuntary, like breathing, or not stepping on sidewalk cracks. I was just enjoying being under the big, blue sky.
From the beginning of my beginning, I have listened to music; my entrance into the world might well have been accompanied by processional music. Hearing Mom play the piano or Mom or Dad singing was part of the world’s natural noise and rhythm. Dad truly contributed to the noise when he would pull up to the piano and pull out “Peter and the Wolf” from his memory, corralling his fingers in the white and black rodeo. I knew the evening at home was going to be a good one when the large book of musicals, from Annie Get Your Gun on, came out to play. The book’s pages were bound together by a plastic spiral strip that tried its best to keep them all together. West Side Story is just barely hanging on, clinging with the few remaining notches.
My piano lessons started at age young. My piano teacher from then to college was an important figure in my life. She was always encouraging, pushing me gently to improve without reprimand or reproach. I think I felt her sense of pride in me though I didn’t recognize it as such. Her lessons were not only about developing my piano-playing ability, they were also about developing my self-confidence. I am grateful for her and for her compounded instruction.
My high school boyfriend influenced my ear in music by introducing me to a different perspective. I knew that harmonies existed, but I never listened to them as much or appreciated their beauty as much until I listened to music from that view. Suddenly, I had a new set of songs to listen to. I heard new and wonderful parts of acapella pieces, of (good) popular music, and even classical works. Though my young teenage heart wished for a different outcome of our relationship, the gift that remained, for which I am grateful, is the consideration for the other lines on the page, allowing me to more deeply enjoy a song.
As a child, I sat by myself on the second left pew during “Big Church,” because Mom and Dad sang in the choir. I could usually pick out Mom’s voice because, well, it was my Mom’s voice and I had/have a hard time not picking it up. I could also usually hear Dad’s voice simply because his was the one that could successfully reach the place where music bottoms out.
I am grateful for the emphasis my home church placed on music. I cannot think of the church without hearing some melody. Still today, worship for me, whether personal or congregational, occurs on a deeper level if I have a song in my heart. I am grateful that through music, I am able to praise, to speak to, and to hear my Creator.
My piano professor in college was tough on me, making me “work for it,” demanding that my fingers routinely go where they were supposed to go. A few of my fingers are visibly twisted today, and I think that the initial turn was in response to the sudden commands, confused by the new timbre. I am grateful to her for one, knowing that I could master a difficult piece and convincing me of the same fact, and two, for exposing me to the performance side of music. Three, I am grateful to and for performance musicians whose hard work makes the days of my life sound better.
Still, my connection with music is much less centered in the soundproof practice room and much more in the open world. To me, nature and music parallel each other and have a hard time going their own, divergent ways. I relate to music much like the child who sits beside her mother at the treble end of the piano bench, tinkering out the notes as she can, mimicking the full version played an octave below by more apt hands. That seat is still desirable and warm to me; it is a secure one, provided by a duet’s necessary connection.
Music has the ability to change my mood, from unsettled to calm, from unfocused to contemplative. Too, it can perfectly match my personality and walk beside me and at other times feel completely foreign and unnatural. There have been times when I refused to listen to a piece of music because I knew that it would shift me away from my anger or my sadness—emotions that I wanted to let brood. I knew that the notes were right though I hated to concede.
Dad has always said that if he came home and Mom was playing something in a minor key, he knew he needed to tread lightly. I guess this outward display was passed on to me; my playlist selection seems to be indicative of where my odometer will hover. Jesse does seem to be more grateful for his seatbelt at times.
Not so very long ago, as I sat in the theater, watching and listening to a production of The Phantom of the Opera, I realized that while this was a repeat performance for me, it was an introduction to the baby I was carrying, the increase in her movement quite noticeable. I’m sure a smile came to me, feeling her feet tapping along, thinking to myself, I guess we will have to have a place for a piano. Perhaps this influenced my choice for her name.
Natural, the sounds and rhythms are natural, only noticed when absent.
Shall we dance, child? Shall we sing? Let’s sit on the grass, pull our knees to our chests, and enjoy the sunshine. All our dreams of joy will come true, because you love me and because I love you.