I made the mistake of falling asleep at 9pm this evening, waking up from my apparent nap at 11:30. I’m wide awake and it’s way too late to do much other than watch infomercials or blog.
Thus let me take a moment to brag. In the last two weeks, Ethan learned to
- tie his own shoes,
- play the piano, and
- ride his bike.
This evening I took him out to a walking/riding path so he could show off his new biking skills that Grandma taught him. In the beginning he couldn’t start himself off — I had to hold the bike up while he pushed of and got his feet situated on the pedals. At the end of the half-hour, he could start and stop with little difficulty.
The most lovably painful part was watching him, his little bike and little body, wobble all over the path and into a double stroller pushed by a very concerned mom. Every once in awhile he would stop the bicycle to assess his shoelace situation, climb off the bike, and retie his shoes with a look of severe concentration.
My baby’s growin’ up.
Since Ethan has started taking piano lessons, I finally had a decent excuse to move my piano from the parents’ house to my own.
This beauty is a Roland electric piano that I got for my sixteenth birthday. Until this point I had played on an antique, hand-me-down upright bought for my oldest uncle. The old piano is at least eighty years old, with a broken pegboard, still situated in my parents’ dining room. The switch of instruments was enormous for me — going from an actual instrument with strings and hammers to an electric version with weighted keys — but I took off soon enough and was pleased that I knew what the songs were supposed to actually sound like instead of imagining the songs on the out-of-tune upright. Then again, I missed the upright.
One little-known fact about me: I can play Stairway To Heaven on the piano. I learned that lame party trick on the old upright.
Growing up, my piano influences apart from the classical masters were the Gershwins and Tori Amos (much respect for the lady, but I’m over her music after years and years of replay). There was something that Tori said that has always stuck somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain: Each instrument is different. You must approach each instrument with respect. Listen for the differences and play to them.
As I grew older and began to discover my penchant for low-fi music I would return to the old upright, a family heirloom, and play certain songs on it, songs that didn’t sound right on the infintely, perfectly tuned Roland. I thought of my grandfather and how pleased he was that his granddaughters learned to play, my parents who would occasionally request songs by yelling through the house, and perhaps my future sons and daughters and how I wanted them to take on my love of music.
Piano or no piano, Ethan has definitely inherited my love of music. Yesterday he requested that I make him a CD to take along in the car. The quick CD I made included AC/DC, Queen, and Skynyrd, songs that he already knows and loves and sings along to in the backseat. (Parenthood is nothing if you haven’t heard your child singing along to Hell’s Bells.) For some reason, music has always meant family to me, something that I have consciously passed along. Maybe it’s the thirteen years of lessons, the generations of old sheet music I have inherited, learning to play the songs that I knew my mother, my father, my sisters, and my grandfather loved so much. Hearing today that my mother told my boyfriend that she wished I would play again, that I once played beautifully.
Ethan’s father, too, got an electric piano for Ethan to learn on. With our crazy custody schedule Ethan will have to practice at both our houses. Having similar instruments will help in the beginning, though there is something in me that wishes he too could learn to play on that old, broken instrument.
One day, I hope to have that old piano.
I set up the Roland in our little house this afternoon and sat down to play, trying to shake the rustiness from my inflexible fingers. The boyfriend sat down on the couch and looked through the piles and piles of cheesy sheet music, requesting everything from Desperado to the Muppets theme song to Horse With No Name, but I turned to my old favorites, dragging out fragile pages of forty-year-old sheet music and my deceased grandfather’s thirty-year-old issues of Sheet Music magazine. Bach’s fugues, Chopin, Singin’ in the Rain, the Gershwins, jazz and blues standards, Joplin, La Vie En Rose, Jerome Kern, Cry, Smile, Tenderly.
I tried to play, cursing through every song, stop and start and retry, all of it slowly coming back to me, but jilted and screwy. It will take awhile for the five years without practice to be undone. When it was time for me to go pick up Ethan from his afternoon at his dad’s, I stood up from the piano and suveyed the room, furniture akimbo to make room for the piano. For the first time, my house truly felt like my home.
Related: If you too are interested in vintage music, scroll down this page to a slew of links to old sheet music available for fair use. For example, can you tame wild wimmen? And, Eve wasn’t modest ’til she ate that apple. That old apple was to blame.