Mar 6, 2008

Pondering the Piano

The jury's still out on whether or not the piano was a good idea.

We inherited it from a neighbor who 'had no room for it.' Meanwhile, when I showed up to the neighbor's house to get a visual on it, I discovered an enormous house with a grand parlour and visible baseboards, NOT a cramped apartment as I'd hoped. No, this wasn't a true 'we have no room for it,' in which case taking it off their hands and putting it into our HOUSE might have seemed like a reasonable thing to do. It was one of those enormous living rooms where you can actually see the pretty brown stripes on the edges of the wooden floors. We have those stripy edges, but every inch is covered with some bookcase, couch, cabinet, or other vital bit of furniture. When my daughter needed a wall against which to practice hand-stands when she was taking gymnastics at Chelsea Piers we couldn't cough one up for her.

'Want to play it?' The husband offered. I stared at the pretty piano and the inviting keys. I only know three songs, and they're all duets. Testing this piano by playing Chopsticks just didn't seem like the right thing to do. I kept my hands low in my coat pockets and said 'no, I just want to see it.'

He then tapped out all 88 keys to show me which ones were dead and which ones worked. The working ones worked beautifully. If I'd thought to try the intro to the Entertainer (my other big piece) or the bottom parts to any of the three duets I know (Heart and Soul being one of them) I would have discovered that some of the dead keys are kind of central and vital to my limited repertoire.

Then he sat down and played a song to show me that the pedals worked. Pedals? I'd never gone near them, except to make big Halloweeny effects. I had no idea how to use them in a real song. Or in Heart and Soul or chopsticks. The song was beautiful. The piano was free. (The movers were not). How could I go wrong? I figured if he could make such a gorgeous sound then it would suit my children's basic needs--twinkle twinkle, up the swing (up the swing I go so high...then I come down from the sky...up five keys, down five keys), some simple stuff.

So I set about rearranging our living room so we could absorb it. The rearranging led me to weed out our 'game cabinet,' which led me to clean out my 'office supply drawer,' which led me upstairs to weed through the 'dress-up clothes' and to find a new home for the 'bin of plastic food.' I decided to keep one 'tangle of unknown black cords' but decided to toss another 'tangle of unknown black cords,' based on very little investigation into what devices any of those black cords might have operated. A decision I may regret next time I'm looking to download home-movies or plug a dvd player into a cigarette lighter.

Then the big moment--the arrival of the piano. 'Why those guys speaking only Spanish?' my four year old asked, referring to the Russian-speaking and very-efficient piano delivery guys. Man number one walked into the living room to see where it was going to go and said 'nice place,' which I took as an enormous compliment, as though I'd given him a tour of the whole house (all 1600 square feet of it) and agreed that I'd chosen the exactly perfect spot. He didn't make a snide remark about how he'd just moved it out of a prominent spot in a much bigger home, which I appreciated.

They ootched it into place, did a bit of drilling (?) to shore up the leg that was very wobbly (I hadn't thought to kick the legs when I'd gone to visit it), and left. Us. Alone. With. The. New. Piano.

It's been in the house now for almost 48 hours, and I've had to drive our seven year old daughter away from it about seven times already. Play it more quietly, I beg her, if the tv's on and she decides to hammer out twinkle twinkle, or the swing song. Or there's the mildly supportive 'great! you played it like nine times, maybe that's enough?' Why hadn't I anticipated any of this?

After being rearranged to make room for the piano, the computer desk now makes a big L that divides the living room a bit, and if I'm at my computer and my daughter's at the piano her left shoulder is brushing my right shoulder. I've tried to show her that if she kind of leans the heel of her hand against the rim of the piano the keys make a quieter sound. It's a subtle thing I'm trying to show her, and not always effective. But I try anyway.

And she's my piano player. The four year old just bangs away and I don't even try to stop her, which isn't fair, I'm reminded. And it isn't fair. And if our nine year old son approaches it it's a different story too, since he's officially not interested in it. So when he tries to tap something out I rarely stop him, which isn't fair. And it really isn't fair. I know.

I'm hoping that once the dust settles, the kids won't feel they have to play the piano every time they walk by it. It'll also help when we figure out how to lower the little thing that covers the keys. It's there, we saw it when the guys installed the piano, but once it was lifted up there's no visible way of lowering it again. Once that gets sorted out I suppose it'll be easier for them to resist. And yes, I get the irony. I got us a new piano that I hope the kids don't ever play.

The whole reason I got the piano is a strong belief that my kids should grow up in a house with a real piano. I did, and I hated lessons, but I learned those damned duets, and it's fun to bang them out sometimes. And there's something about kids and pianos and being good at math, isn't there? And my son doesn't want to learn any instruments so that's a good reason to have him live with a piano, right? So he can have a bit of familiarity with one? Because this is the closest he might ever get to a real instrument.

Oh, and the duets? We've tried a few of them but very few octaves have all the proper keys working. I tell myself it's better than nothing. But I'm just not sure yet.

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