I won’t go into details, but there was a time when we ended up with two pianos in what used to be our tiny dining room. One was a gift from my mother when we moved into our first house because, “it’s just not a home without a piano” and the other was passed down from my husband’s family. I’m the only one on that side that likes to tickle the ivories.
As trendy as a dueling piano bar might be, it didn’t work for us and I had to decide which one to keep. It wasn’t an easy choice. I played them both, taking turns, alternating styles of music. Maple Leaf Rag sounded good on the old inherited one, but the newer one had unstained keys.
At the end of what was ridiculously long decision, I shipped the newer piano off to a buyer and apologized to my mother for selling it, assuring her that we still had one piano, so the home remained complete.
The old piano’s darker workwork looked beautiful against our green walls. I covered the top of it with photo frames and doodads of sentimentality and sat down to play my favorite Sontatina, the only one I ever really memorized and had been playing since the eighth grade. It was a good choice.
Our youngest daughter progressed in her piano lessons and soon the stained keys were also smudged with all sorts of stuff from her fingers. Dirty, but still a beautiful sound.
Suddenly one day, silence. A broken key. The first of what has become many, to be truthful. Even in those old pianos, there’s prehistoric plastic elbows that help move things up and down in the depths of the instrument that strike to make Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” ring through our walls. But without an F#, things weren’t the same.
But old things are not bad things, and with a little help from my computer, a quick shipping option, and a how-to video, I found myself with a flashlight and a pair of pliers on the floor replacing an ancient plastic elbow.
The old piano sounded great again. Songs were complete, without funky little gaps of silence where the F# used to be.
Weeks later, a cry from what used to be the dining room. “Mom! Middle C!”
Sure enough, another fatality of sound. But in the piano bench, off to the side underneath where the Christmas music likes to hide, I now keep a stash of these plastic elbows. Within minutes, my newfound skill lets me restore the sweet strike of string as it should be.
With any luck, we’ll celebrate monumental birthdays for this old piano, and someday I’ll have replaced all of the brittle plastic and the Maple Leaf Rag will be as continuous as it should be.
Originally written 1.8.17