2: Time for Music

2: Time for Music

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Time for Music

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.


“Can I take piano lessons like Nicole?” Tami, my blue-eyed seven-year-old begged, tugging at my shirtsleeve as I stirred spaghetti sauce for dinner.

Nicole, our next-door neighbor and Tami’s best friend, was eight. In my mind, it was the perfect age to start piano, probably because that’s how old I’d been. “Maybe next year,” I told Tami, adding a bit more basil to the sauce.

“I want to take lessons now.” Tami tugged at my sleeve again.

I winced at the hope in her voice. If we were able to budget for piano lessons, I would have to drive her there, and that was on top of second-grade worksheets, soccer, Brownie Scouts, laundry, shopping, cooking, and the care of Tami’s little brothers, ages two and four. Next year, my youngest would be in preschool, the middle child in kindergarten. There would be a little more time. For now, the strains of the Beethoven sonata wafting from our stereo would have to be enough piano music for Tami.

“Please, Mommy? Pleeeze?”

I turned from the stove and looked at my wispy-haired daughter. My heart melted the way a mother’s heart does when faced with that pleading look of her child.

“I’ll talk to Nicole’s mother. Find out who the teacher is and what it costs. I’ll need to talk to Dad.”

“Thank you!” Tami hugged me around the waist and skipped off, probably to tell Nicole.

Had I said yes?

I looked at the old upright that had sat in our living room unused for the three years since we’d seen an ad and I’d begged my husband to buy it. I loved piano music. I usually had a piano CD on at home, and scrimped for tickets to the symphony, especially enjoying the guest pianists. I had taken lessons as a child. I hadn’t been a child prodigy, certainly, but I’d performed for a room of beaming parents several times in recitals. I longed to play again.

When we bought the piano, I produced the right hand to “Happy Birthday” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on the appropriate occasions. But when I attempted the left hand to “Silent Night,” Tami, then four, looked sadly at me and patted my shoulder. “You made a lot of mistakes, Mommy,” she said. “That’s okay.”

Obviously, a sonata was not going to magically pour from my fingers. I needed to take lessons again and practice daily if I was going to create anything resembling music.

As the years passed, my husband had the grace to say the piano made a nice piece of furniture and left me to nag myself. I would play again, I swore, when the children were older and I had more time. In my current hectic life, there was not a remote possibility of devoting a half-hour a day to practicing. Tami would be our pianist.

After dinner, with the family settled in front of a Disney movie, I called Nicole’s mother. She liked the teacher very much, and the rates were reasonable. My husband agreed that Tami could begin lessons. So I called the teacher and a piano tuner.

Two weeks later, on a sunny Thursday afternoon, I took Tami to her first lesson.

My heart quickened as I watched the teacher lead my daughter to a mahogany upright that resembled the one at our house and sit beside her on the bench. Tears sprang to my eyes. Was I sad to see my little girl growing up?

I should slip out the door, but I stood transfixed.

The piano teacher looked back at me and rose from the bench. “You want to play too, don’t you? I can give you a family rate.”

Did my face show my longing to feel those ivories under my fingers? The teacher didn’t sound like a salesman; she sounded like a compassionate friend.

“I don’t have time,” I stammered. “Maybe when the children are older.”

“Of course.” She nodded, and I left.

“Family rates,” I murmured as I drove home. But no, it was out of the question.

Over the next week, I made sure Tami practiced every day. She willingly sat down at the piano the first few days. Then, one afternoon, she resisted. “I’d rather go to Nicole’s.”

“Do you know how lucky you are?” I scolded. “I’d love to be practicing.”

“Then you do it,” Tami said.

I recoiled. Not because my daughter had talked back to me, which she seldom did, but because I heard my own words. I would love to be practicing.

My older son was engrossed in his Legos, and the younger one was taking a nap. I could snag a few minutes at the piano. “You go to Nicole’s for a while,” I said. “Then you need to practice.”

Tami was out the door before I finished my sentence. I opened her John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano — First Grade and put my fingers on the keys.

I could feel my smile growing as I teased out the simple pieces with one hand, then both hands. Could I take lessons and find a half-hour a day to practice? I didn’t have time for all the things I did now. But each day I juggled the minutes, and somehow when bedtime came, the have-tos were done.

Could I make playing the piano a have-to?

I worked my way through ten songs before Joel woke up. At some point, Ben came to stand beside me and watch as my fingers sought out the keys they hadn’t touched in years.

That night, I arranged for my own lessons every other week during the time Ben was at preschool and Joel at a friend’s. For a half-hour every day, often in five- or ten-minute segments, I settled down with John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano — Second Grade and Bach for Early Grades. Sometimes one or both boys plunked keys along with me for a few minutes until one or the other of us grew tired of the din. Sometimes Tami and I practiced the same piece, with me on the keys an octave lower, a sort of duet. Some blissful times I practiced alone.

“I’m glad you’re playing again,” my husband commented one night when I went to the piano after the dinner dishes were done. “How did you find time?”

“I made it a have-to,” I explained with a smile, and turned to Bach’s “Minuet in G Major.” For the early grades, it was fine, but if I kept at it I’d be treating the family to sonatas.

~Samantha Ducloux Waltz

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