Ever do something for so long that it becomes a part of you and you don’t think about it anymore?
That’s the way I am about teaching piano – after 40 years it’s just an integral part of my DNA and I don’t even remember to report it when newly met folks ask what I do. Although I’m a writer as a profession, I “do” all sorts of things, and those are usually how I answer that question (i.e. sneak triple threat brownies for breakfast, play tennis and pickleball – sometimes both on the same day, dance like a crazy woman to praise songs, ride my bicycle Isabella until I’m sweat-stuck to the seat, scarf Cadbury bars, play Go Fish with adorable little people, etc.).
So although piano is woven throughout the fabric of my being, I don’t often think about it. But this week during a lesson, something happened to bring back a long-forgotten memory.
One of my current students – who happens to also be my grandson, Blaine (11) – kept slip-sliding back into favorite fun pieces at every break between his assigned songs and sometimes even in the middle of them. He said he found scales and waltzes boring and ever so tedious (for good reason). I explained that boring, tedious practice pieces are what makes us play better and therefore able to tackle more songs we actually like in the long run.
But for a young, active, live-in-the-now boy, that explanation was a little too esoteric. The long run is just too … well, long. The short sprint is what matters at the moment. So the Star Wars theme trumped Brahms Lullaby at ever turn.
Reminded me of when I was his age, taking piano lessons from Mrs. Edwards in her tiny trailer. It vibrated like a tin box with every trill and broken chord. Sometimes I thought her dentures would fly out when I hit a crescendo of wrong notes (which was often). When I started taking lessons at age six, Mrs. Edwards was at least a hundred years old (or so it seemed to me), so by the time I finally was allowed to cease the torture at 17, she was giving Methuselah a hard run for his money.
In my youthful stupisity (not a word but should be), I thought, because of her advanced age (over 60) and accompanying diminishing faculties (ha!), that she was surely missing a few saucers from her proverbial tea set. So every time she’d slip away from her chair beside me at the piano to visit the restroom just on the other side of the thin wall, I’d ditch Beethoven in the dust and launch into the latest from Carole King, Elton John, or Billy Joel (this was the late 60s/early 70s).
I’d keep pounding those keys, getting my bad self down, until I heard the toilet flush, then as the bathroom door squeaked open, I’d immediately switch back to the stately but dull (to my way of thinking) Fur Elise. Mrs. Edwards never said a word. Not once.
So all those years, I thought I was putting one over on her. But she was actually pulling a good one on me. (As if she couldn’t hear a blaring PIANO though those balsa wood walls.) In retrospect, I think she actually faked some of those bathroom runs just to hear what I could really do (I put a whole lot more soul into, “I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet,” than “Schubert’s Concerto No. 2”).
You know, it occurs to me that we try to pull the same scam on Papa God sometimes. We crack open our Bibles, intending to obediently read a chapter and meditate on His holy Word, then after a few verses, our eyes keep progressing through the passage, but our minds are evacuating the premises, hopping here, there, and everywhere. We revisit the grocery list we started earlier; think about what to wear tomorrow; worry yet again about that work problem we just can’t seem to solve.
Before we know it, the devotional time we’d intended to spend with Papa God is over and we only truly spent a fraction of it in His presence. The rest was simply tickling the ivories – going through the motions of playing along instead of pounding the keys with honest-to-goodness passion.
We’re satisfied that we did our obligatory bit, but we’re not fooling anyone. Certainly not the Creator of the Universe, who can hear our every thought and feel the sincerity of our hearts.
So I think I need to learn this lesson yet again: Practice makes perfect.
How about you, dearest BFF? Does this chord resonate with you?
Well, okay, okay, we’ll never be perfect. But when we discipline ourselves to genuinely spend time every day in the Almighty’s presence, we’ll get to know His grace-filled, love-overflowing heart intimately and eventually become more like Him. And isn’t that our ultimate goal?
Say, did you have a wise Mrs. Edwards in your past? What life lessons did you learn?