By Stacyjo Hamlin
My first memories of The Piano were of me (not even knowing how to play) sitting next to my sister playing what I called the “thunder part” ; doing my best to make the piece she was playing a duet. I don’t ever remember her getting frustrated with me, I only remember her letting me chime in with my bit of creativity from time to time. Oh, the memories are so precious, they bring tears to my eyes.
I do remember when It was my turn to start taking piano lessons and how my mom would take me to Mrs. Rothman’s house once a week. I even remember how pleasant her home smelled and I remember her cute little husband poking around here and there. Mrs. Rothman meant business and was a stern teacher, but she was also the sweetest lady ever! She never minded when I would make up songs and write them down and play them for her- she let me take up her time and listened intently. I don’t remember exactly how one of the songs went that I had wrote, but I know it was about a giraffe, and she corrected my spelling and musical errors and didn’t make me feel like I was stupid for my mistakes. She hosted recitals in her back room, and it was so hot and crowded, but filled with excitement at the same time. I knew I wasn’t the best, though (shockingly) that didn’t bother me, because I enjoyed the other players that were not as novice as I. My parents always came to those recitals, and though I’m quite sure they dreaded it, they never let on. At one of the recitals, a young boy played “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He was much older than me, and far more talented but I WANTED TO PLAY THAT SONG! At my next lesson I told Mrs. Rothman, that I wanted to play that song, and I wanted to play it at the next recital and memorize it like that boy did. At this point I had been playing the piano for a few years, but was in no shape, no way talented or experienced enough to play that song. Mrs. Rothman said, “of course you can do it”. I was young, I don’t remember how young, but I was in grade school, so I was young. The very next recital (guessing, six months later) I… little ‘ol me, played “the Flight of the Bumblebee” by memory, without one mistake! I DID IT!!! It was that moment that inspired me, that very moment that gave me confidence, that very moment that made me think I could do anything. I had often wondered if Mrs. Rothman knew how she truly impacted my life. When my oldest was only eight, she wanted to take piano lessons. We didn’t have a piano, but the one I grew up playing was at my moms and not far from our house. My mom agreed to let her come practice and play there. I contacted Mrs. Rothman (wondering if she still taught piano since in my head, she was old when I started to play) she said “Yes”, and she only charged me half price! I was so grateful, and one day after my daughter’s lesson, I told her the impact she had on my life. She said she knew, she said she had seen the change in my eyes. I wanted her to touch my daughter’s life as she had touched mine; I hope she did. Oh, the memories, so precious they bring tears to my eyes.
As a teenager, I would play that piano, sometimes, my daddy would sit next to me and play his sax or we would sing together as I played. Often, I would play and my other sister and my daddy would sing. My mom would just sit (never being a piano player or a singer) she glowed as she listened. When my daddy sang, it would bring chills that would run deep, and every eye in the room would fill with tears at the mere sound of his heart. I have yet to ever hear a voice as stout and triumphant as my daddy’s brilliant baritone inflections. Growing up, I would play that piano over and over until my fingertips hurt. I would write music, some had lyrics of the teenage woes, that won’t be shared here. If I was having a bad day, the thunder would roll, on good days the bumblebees would fly and the dolls would dream. “Doll’s Dream” by Theodore Oesten, was my mom’s favorite piece that I played, she would say “go faster, go faster” it felt good to know she was pleased when I played that song. Oh, the memories, so precious they still bring tears to my eyes.
When I became an adult and moved out of my parent’s house, leaving that piano was an emotional struggle for me that I shared with no one. It was my peace, it was my comforter, it was my joy. Almost every time I would visit my parents, I would sit down and play…even if for only a moment, before one of my own kids came and sat next to me to play their “thunder”. It was my turn to be patient with the little pounding fingers of a child; a child who just wanted to express themselves. For the record, my sister did a much better job at being patient. Playing the piano was my time, and now it was shared, though the sharing brought me joy, it just wasn’t the same. As my kids grew up, they understood my attachment to The Piano, and though we would “play” together they respected my time alone as well. I’d like to think they enjoyed the music that came from The Piano as much as I did. During family gatherings, when most everyone was outside, I would sneak in to The Piano and play. My mom would come in, and ask to hear the “Doll’s Dream”. As I honored her request, she would just stand at the banister by the kitchen door and smile, sometimes she’d sit in the rocking chair, and every once in awhile she would stand next to me, her hand on my shoulder, no barriers, no fighting the feelings to struggle for perfection, just her warmth, her love, and a joy we both shared. Oh, the memories, so precious they still bring tears to my eyes.
As the years passed on, so did my father, then my mother. They left to find their joy in the sky, to dine with Christ, to be forever praising Him, and experience a complete peace as never before. One of my mother’s favorite hymns was “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, and as she was taking some of her last breaths, I tried to sing it to her, and I failed. The grief overcame me, and I cracked, it was far from a perfect tribute to that song but I hope she knew I tried. I hope she heard me; I hope she knew that I cared, and through all of our differences, I pray she knew how I loved her deeply. Since she has passed, I don’t sing much anymore, (except on Sunday’s at church) and have only played The Piano one time. My grief has silenced my joy, Satan’s bondage had buried my spirit, for every single time I hear a piano play, or I sing, it reminds me of my loss, rather than their gain.
Today, The Piano was delivered from California, it made the trip here to Arizona perfectly; so I’ve been told. Today, The Piano became My Piano. I haven’t seen it since it arrived; I ran upstairs to bawl my eyes out instead of facing My Piano. Instead of facing my grief. I could not bare the realization that this beautiful gift was only in my home at the cost of my parents being gone. I would much rather trade that gorgeous wooden box full of memories for my parent’s presence. Even if it meant I could never play it again. As I was sitting, praying for strength and direction, some peace and comfort, and hope from Christ, He told me to write. As I’ve learned that obedience has become a privilege in my life, I chose to obey. Though my eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow (Job 17:7) I know that You God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to You; You are the helper of the fatherless (Psalm 10:14). I shall play My Piano today, I may be rusty, I may be tired, but I am not beaten down by the bondage of Satan in my grief; for My God reigns! I am that little child who could play “The Flight of the Bumblebee” with perfection, and in all confidence, I am HIS. I am HIS child, the one who hurts, but finds comfort in His mighty hand, the one who struggles with sin but is washed clean by His grace. The one who will play My Piano, knowing the peace, hope, and joy it has brought me in the past and will continue to bring me in the future, is from Him. There may be tears on My Piano, more often than not, but I will play.
The memories so precious they are bringing tears to my eyes, tears that keep me vulnerable to Christ and His blessings. Though He takes away, His gifts abound with me.