Besides the Fourth of July being, well, the Fourth of July, it’s also the birthday of my first piano teacher.
I don’t remember how my parents found Mrs. W., but her chief selling point was that she came to the house for lessons!
Yep, her aging husband drove her down from their tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it community every week, rain, snow, or whatever. He’d park their rattle-trap car in the driveway and sleep while she went inside for a 30-minute lesson in scales and the Schaum method.
As a kid, I didn’t appreciate her. My sister and I groaned about having to practice every day, having to endure a weekly lesson, having to participate in twice yearly recitals.
Mrs. W. was old. Clad in a belted dress (never pants!) and sensible shoes, she wore her graying hair in a bun and kind of leaned over you as you were tinkling the ivories.
Her breath smelled like an old person, and she had long hairs sticking out from her chin. Her eyes were a watery shade of blue behind her glasses; she never wore makeup or cologne or fingernail polish.
She was plain.
And looking back, I’m not even sure if she played piano! I mean, try as we might, we never could entice her to play something for us “so we could hear what it was supposed to sound like.”
But her fees were reasonable (too low, actually), and she awarded us lots of stars and stickers — Flags, dogs, flowers. And somewhere along the way, I learned how to play piano and how much I love music.
Mrs. W. passed away several years ago, and it bothers me that I didn’t have a chance to really thank her. After all, she was patient and kind, punctual and modest, and she must have known something because my teachers who followed her indicated I had a “good grounding in the basics.”
So Mrs. W., wherever you are, Thank You and Happy Birthday!