Monday, January 21, 2013

Blame it on your grandmother

I feel the need to explain my actions.

When I was a child, my mother often made time to play the piano by squeezing it into the time just after we were sent up to bed. When I became a parent, I followed her example, quickly realizing that it was an excellent choice of time slot - it calmed everyone down, including a frazzled mother. I couldn't play for too long, since for many years we lived in places with noise restrictions in the evening, but many days that was enough. When it wasn't, I found time to play a little bit during the day - usually with someone small perched up beside me on the bench, "helping."

I don't know if my mother, in turn, learned this habit from her mother. I do know that my grandmother played the piano until late in life, and was the first to tell me that if I wanted to keep playing as I got older, and began to deal with the family inheritance of osteoarthritis, I would have to make it a point to play every day. This fall, after a lapse of several months, I sat down to brush up on Christmas music and discovered that the Time Had Come for making piano playing a daily ritual.

My grandmother also played duets with me, and was always willing to listen to whatever I was learning. By 1973 though, I was a teenager, and beginning that amazing distancing process that teens go through on the way to becoming independent adults - my grandmother and I didn't always see eye to eye any more. At the end of that year, the movie "The Sting" was released, with Marvin Hamlisch's wonderful re-workings of some of Scott Joplin's music for the soundtrack. Suddenly, ragtime was popular again. With what I remember as a little hesitancy, my grandmother offered me some ragtime music that she had played when it was first popular. To her surprise, I greeted this as the coolest of the cool. Ragtime was in, and I had songs none of my friends had heard.

I can still play the piano because of my grandmother. I play ragtime to this day, because of my grandmother. It puts my daughter to sleep, because of her grandmother. I love that.

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