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Curiosity and Determination

When a Grand asks to play our pump organ, I say, “Yes.” And I often say that my grandfather and his two sisters bought the organ about 1915 when they were young adults. 

            “Did one pump and one play?” eight-year-old Micah asked.  I shook my head.  Micah had played our piano and organ since he was a toddler – old enough to reach the keys.  Creating his own melodies, his little hands have run up and down the keyboards, and he learned to play with fingers, not fists. 

            He pumped the organ pedals and played, and like every other time, my Grand declared that you needed strong legs to pump.  When it was my turn, I played ‘Jesus Loves Me’ while Micah sat quietly studying my fingers and the hymnal propped open on the organ.  After I played the last note, he asked, “Gran, how do you know what key to play by looking at that book?” 

             I quickly found Lesson Book – Level 1A that Micah’s big brother and sister had used.  Knowing Samuel and Annabel used the same book made this young Grand throw out his chest. He asked to play the piano so he wouldn’t have to pump. 

            Micah is methodical – before he rides his bike, he puts on his helmet, arm and knee pads, and riding gloves – so when I flipped a few pages to one that showed black notes and finger numbers for ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ he stopped me.  “Gran, what if I miss something important in the front?” 

            He practiced sitting tall and curving his fingers like a cat’s paw.  We both numbered and wiggled our thumbs and fingers. “Are thumbs always number 1, even in a different book?” Micah bent his thumbs.  What a relief that music books uses the same numbered fingers. 

            We counted quarter, half, and whole notes in a measure. Micah played all the black keys in groups of two; then those in groups of three.  Forty-five minutes after opening the Lesson Book, we turned to ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and we sang the numbers over the notes: 2343 222 333 222.  (Keys are named as letters in later lessons.)

            Micah put three left-hand fingers on the three black keys below middle C, and I put my index finger over the first note in the lesson book.  “No, Gran. I think I’ve got this,” he said.  And he did.  Maybe because Micah is left-handed, playing with his right hand was more difficult, but he tried over and over to master ‘O’er the Deep Blue Sea.’  

            Micah took home copies of two pages from the lesson book. “I’ll play on our piano.  Everyone will be so surprised!  It’s kinda’ like reading.  When can I play the next page?”  Micah will learn the names of keys and he’ll understand that notes for ‘Jesus Loves Me’ are written on five straight black lines.  My Grand’s curiosity led to learning and his determination to success.  And I got to watch. 

Grand Finale of Falls

images“If you were shorter, I think you would’ve caught your balance and wouldn’t have fallen,” said my friend Kathy, who witnessed my arms and legs flail as I tried to catch myself after tripping. I had to laugh. Kathy probably cuts 8 inches off of a pair of store-bought pants to shorten them and I could add those 8 inches to my pants so they’d come to my ankles. If I were her height, I wouldn’t have flipped in the air and hit the side of my head on a piano. But I did.

Catching my balance doesn’t come naturally to me. Never has. I was eight years old when I fell on the blacktop road running to my Granny’s house. She scrubbed my skinned knee with soap and water and painted it with Mercurochrome. For many years, I sported a white silver-dollar size scar.

I was a Tennessee Tech student and the chimes rang the hour for my class to begin. I ran and jumped over a low chain beside the sidewalk, caught my toe on the chain, and landed on the sidewalk. Books, pens, notebooks, and purse scattered. I hobbled into class, late. Torn pantyhose. Blood on the sleeves of my white blouse. Kleenex stuck on skinned elbows and knees. “Glad you made it,” my instructor said.

When I was 27, I fell in the middle of the dance floor at a wedding reception. One of those fancy summertime county club receptions. We women wore long dresses and dangling earrings. The music stopped for intermission and guests gathered around tables covered white floor length tablecloths and adorned with massive floral arrangements.   I spotted a friend across the room that I hadn’t seen in years and rather than walk the long way around the room’s perimeter, I walked across the empty dance floor. A floor must have been oiled on only one spot – right in the middle. My feet went up, my backend down. If the collective sign “OH…” shouted by the 200 guests could have had the power to lift me, I would have immediately stood. But it didn’t, so Husband and friends came to my aid. No visible injuries. Deep embarrassment. I’ve never walked across an empty space in a crowded room since.

My fall that Kathy witnessed four weeks ago was my Grand Finale, I hope. How many people do you know who have stood on a stage, taken two steps, lost her balance on a slightly uneven floor, danced alone with flailing arms and legs, flipped, smacked into a grand piano, and landed under that piano? According to the four friends who watched, a stunt girl couldn’t have done better.

If I were shorter, I would’ve stopped after the dance and regained my balance. But I didn’t. So here’s what I now know. A piano is harder than my head. A concussion takes time and patience to heal. Quiet and calm and sleep are healing. So are notes and visits from family and friends. Husband is a top-notch caregiver.

And patience must be practiced. And practiced. And practiced. Day, after day, after day.