Instrument of Love

Instrument of Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Instrument of Love

You can’t change the music of your soul.

Katharine Hepburn

“Hurry and finish breakfast, honey. We have some new music to learn today.”

The sun was barely up, yet here we sat upon the piano bench, mother and daughter, welcoming the new day in song.

“Finger three goes on G,” I gently instructed. “Are your fingers curved and in good position?”

Blue eyes rolled under her wire-framed glasses. Seven-year-old Emily sighed before repeating the measure, adding a little “forte” to emphasize that this time she did, indeed, hit the correct note.

Careful not to be too hard on her. Stress the positive and make it fun, I reminded myself. “That was much better!”

Reminiscing, I thought back to my own mother, thirty years ago, sitting beside me as I practiced scales and sonatinas before sunrise. Her pink satin slippers peeking out from under her bathrobe, Mom sipped steaming coffee while guiding me through my lesson books. We were six- thirty people, meeting at the crack of dawn each day, like clockwork. (“It’s best if you get your practicing out of the way before school,” was Mom’s adage.) Despite working a second-shift job and getting six hours of sleep, Mom never missed a practice session. “That was nice. How about trying it one more time?” she would say to me.

Mom’s instruction was always subtle, her gentle manner filling me with love. Her coaching was about life: “Practice every day. Always try your best.” And the knowledge that I didn’t even fully realize until thirty years later: “Spend quality time with your daughter. Be there for her no matter what.”

Sliding across the piano bench, I gave Emily a hug. We played duets and alouettes; not perfectly at first, but eventually with some semblance of harmony and rhythm. “Let’s play it again, Mom!” Em’s eyes, the same pair that were rolling with frustration just twenty minutes earlier, were now brimming with the glow of accomplishment. I, too, felt a sort of glow . . . a love between generations cemented years earlier, on a piano bench in the early light of day.

“Mom, you should have heard her play at the recital! She didn’t miss a note!” It was a week later, and I felt the need to brag about my musician. I knew exactly who to call first.

“Well of course she did a great job! You tell Em that Grandma is proud of her. And don’t forget to give her a big, sweet kiss.”

Hanging up the phone, I walked into my bedroom, checking that the alarm was set for the next morning. We are, as we always have been, six-thirty people, mother and daughter, playing our instrument of love.

Stefanie Wass

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