That my parents never got me piano lessons is one of the great tragedies of my childhood…which of course means that I had it pretty good.
With that acknowledged, I’ll admit I always wished I were a better piano player. I taught myself, sitting for hours at the keys, using my mother’s old method books for study. A music stand sat over my shoulder, so if I got bored at the piano I could swivel 180 degrees on the bench, pick up one of the other instruments I played, and start practicing that one – usually flute but occasionally clarinet or tenor sax or for one unfortunate summer, violin. My middling success with all of these was an early sign that voice would be my primary instrument.
This Thanksgiving I sat back on that same bench and made my way through the seasonally appropriate Pilgrim Suite (copyright 1937), still making a bunch of mistakes, still missing accidentals, still botching cadences then muttering “no” and resolving back to the tonic.
Out of courtesy I waited until most of the family was out of earshot to take this particular meander down memory lane. But if they’d been there to hear I’m sure they would have shrugged and accepted that I was doing something I wasn’t very good at, again.
This has been the great gift of my life, to do what I love and enjoy, regardless of success. My husband watches me run races like a spaz and come in last, and still supports my passion for running. My parents allowed me to spend long hours enjoying myself, writing, wandering, playing, and singing, and it didn’t matter a whit whether or not I was any good.
My good fortune has been doubled by my discovering that some of the things I loved I actually am good at. I get paid to sing, write, and talk. But I doubt I ever would have had the nerve to pursue those things that set my heart on fire if not for the blissful freedom to explore and to fail that I found on that timeless piano bench a long time ago.
For this freedom I am thankful. For what are you thankful?
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