Perhaps you saw that devastating story in the New York Times about people throwing away grand pianos, and smashing them up with sledge hammers?
Our piano came from a bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard in a section that used to be full of old book stores. It was the last bookshop, and our piano (reputedly Liberaci's practice piano) was lodged among the stacks, there for anyone who wandered in from the Boulevard to play. There were some homeless people and some old customers--but we came along and bought it for almost nothing. It cost more to get the piano movers to push it up our 43 stairs than to buy the piano itself.
We love our piano.
Now the boys play, and we are always picking up music from the strangest places. Jonathan got an entire collection of show tunes from 1960 to now from a library sale. You just knew they belonged to some old Hollywood person who played for years, then died. In that pile we found Fiddler on the Roof, and Benji learned to play Sunrise Sunset for his last piano recital. I hope that dead piano player can see where their music ended up.
Then recently, J and I were walking a friend's dog and we found a pile of piano books strewn along the sidewalk, along with an old mattress--probably an eviction.
There was Bach and Mozart and Beethoven and more showtunes. I think there were literally piano books from my childhood. I felt I was rescuing them--like they were beautiful orphans who had lost their way and no one could see how beautiful they were. We did!
We brought them home, and there was Beethoven's Fur Elise. Probably one of the most cliched pieces of piano music in the world today. It was the piece my parents demanded I learn to play at 11, before I could give up piano and join the band at Cutler Jr. High School. I sat down, after all these years, and started to play.
It's a cliche, yes. But I had forgotten how beautiful it is. Even played unevenly, without confidence, with many errors, I felt like it cast a spell on our house. Jonathan shouted out from the TV room, and the boys shouted out from upstairs: "What is that? I like that one!"
I think I never learned to play the whole thing. I know the sound, but I did not know the middle pieces. Now I get up most mornings, grab my coffee, and play for just a little while. When I don't, Benji asks why I have stopped playing piano in the morning.
And I marvel at how this pile of piano books, found on the street, can give me such joy.
I feel like it was sent to me by a secret messenger from beyond, who just knew I needed a little Fur Elise in my life.
2 years ago