Inevitably I ask myself, Was this a good year?”
It is good.
Could my long-ago mentor have been mistaken?
Does GOOD still mean something good?
Like Mary, my heart brims with material for pondering.
Why, just yesterday I received one of the truly “GOOD” gifts, surely one of those memorably great gifts one treasures the rest of their life – the kind of gift that overcomes us so completely we can only nod, choked with emotion, as we murmur, “It is good.”
Yesterday I received just such a gift as I stood by and observed my 11-year-old daughter falling in love.
Yesterday, quite unexpectedly and without warning her eyes danced as she began a relationship I hope will last a lifetime . . . she found HER piano.
After much research and a few trips to showrooms for introductions and debutant dances on the keyboard, she found Mr. Right. It turned out that the 100+ year-old Steinways beautifully restored with a richness of tone that we drove nearly three hours to meet did not hold the key to this 11-year-old pianists musical heart. Instead, a new Mason-Hamlin grandly sitting nearby in all its 6-foot 4-inch ebonied beauty would steal her heart. But we did not know that as we drove and arrived to meet three hand-selected Steinway & Sons pianos of impeccable reputation.
As she approached each piano formally, attired in a rich green velvet gown for the special meeting, she sat and set about the business of “small talk” with each potential mate. Scales and chords, Habanera dances and lyrical impressions laughed out from the two seated together while the rest of us busied ourselves in giving the shy musician her private space in this delicate minuet. Some pianos received but a mere glance, others a simple introduction followed by a polite “Thank you, but no . . .” Tears gathered in this mother’s eyes as I heard such beauty emanating from this pairing or that – the rich result of those hands upon those keys.
Style, age, and price mattered not to this child in search as she played a variety of pianos beyond the three that we had arranged to “meet.” She quickly discarded some fine suitors in favor of two contenders: a 103-year-old restored Hamburg Steinway and Sons, and a brand new Mason and Hamlin AA. Equally prestigious in the world of pianos, equally decorated amongst musicians, she danced back and forth between the two. The lingering dance paused for refreshment as we made our way to a small Italian restaurant to assuage our hunger and discuss the dancing partners. The impish pianist wistfully recounted how she loved one piano more than the other, but would settle for the second choice if that proved to be the necessary option. Both played beautifully, she noted with a smile.
[I must interject here that while the #2 choice had stretched the allotted funds to the limit, it rested within the budget, unlike the #1 choice which stood far-afield, considerably beyond the monetary maximum Dad felt the budget could accommodate.]
As we finished up a very satisfying lunch we all agreed that Rachel should meet still more partners. A quick flight to San Diego in the upcoming weeks and yet another Steinway specialist would greet the musical child with a host of new potential partners. And so we paid the trattoria tab and returned to thank the generous host at the current piano ball.
As we walked to the car from the restaurant I casually inquired of Rachel whether the “weathered” elements of piano #2 had influenced her feelings. She stopped, thought, and replied, “I hadn’t noticed any difference in appearance in the pianos. They all looked fine to me.” Puzzled, I wondered how she could have missed the scrolled beauty of this one, the deep ebony sheen of that one, and on and on my surface assessments rolled. She hadn’t even noticed color difference, it seemed! How could that be? Simple, she stated quite plainly, it is all about the sound and the feel – it’s the music . . . and no more.
We entered the piano shop wherein her father deftly engaged in small talk regarding the “to be continued” storyline in this quest for The right piano. As the men talked the young girl sat to play her favorites upon the favored ones just once more, storing up those melodious memories in her heart for future ponderings and comparisons when the inevitable choosing must take place. With her mother at her side she approached #2. Her mother queried about the differences in the two instruments and the child paused . . . “Well, I can’t exactly say, one just gives me what I want more than the other. When I play it answers just a bit clearer, sharper, brighter.” She shrugged, like a child, and began to play one of her favorite pieces entitled “Happy Heart.”
The rich “Hamburg” sound of this German-made Steinway from 1906 filled the room with a romantic beauty that stung my eyes to tears. The melody faded into a reverberating memory. I couldn’t speak for the lump that had developed in my throat. The pianist knew it was beautiful. She knew it was a beautiful instrument. She knew it would work well for a lifetime. She knew . . . but . . .
She then picked up her books and casually carried them to the Mason-Hamlin beauty, a full 6 inches bigger wearing a new set of keys held a mere ½ inch higher than the competition. The pianist had remarked about the height difference in the keyboards when explaining one of the “better” attributes of the first-place choice – astonished, her father verified her find, but wondered how it mattered, as the piano dealer offered casters to elevate the other to match. She didn’t need it changed for her sake, she shrugged, simply noting it in her playing and finding that ½-inch difference a noticeable benefit.
Close by her side, with closed eyes, her mom listened as the Happy Heart danced upon the keys of the first-choice piano. Beautiful, simply beautiful . . . and then she heard it! The rambling dance across the keys in a middle stanza floated high above with a clarity and brightness that wasn’t there a minute ago when she played the Steinway. Everyone in the presence of this shy little pianist heard it. The dance was flawless. She had met her piano.
As she gathered her books and prepared to walk back to the car, drive the long way home, and ready herself for yet another round of dances in yet another town with yet another set of potential suitors, her father looked at her mother and nodded . . . “It’s the one,” He said quietly. Mom held back the tears and nodded. The financial barrier crumbled as that father thanked the Lord for an unexpected financial dividend newly received and plunked into the bank for future security, which (need I add) bridged the gap with little to spare. It was done. It was good.
With the check passed across the desk and the delivery date secured for early January, I turned to the little pianist and saw my baby girl yawning and ready to go home after a long afternoon of dancing. The pianist with her faraway look and lovely dancing hands had retreated to await the arrival of her very special partner sometime in the freshness of the new year. Truly a good way to end the old year and an equally good way to begin the new one. My heart spilled over from all the goodness of the day as I tucked my child back in to the car, settled in next to her wonderful father, and raised my eyes to thank the Lord for going before it all. It was a very good day for dancing.
May 2010 bring you Good things to dance about.