An upcoming move many miles away and likely into a smaller home has me on a downsizing binge. I’ve gotten rid of so many things that I never thought I would part with: my Navy SeaBees tunic, crystal candlesticks, some 1980’s Christian Dior suits that were never ever going to fit me again, that extra set of wedding dishes, random kid-made pottery bowls, an unopened bottle of Tigress perfume, and a vintage silver gravy dish that once belonged to the US ambassador to Vietnam. It all seemed so essential at one point, but frankly just re-reading the list makes me realize how futile/dumb (pick your adjective of choice) it was to hang on to that stuff for decades.
The one HUGE thing that I keep ignoring is my piano—not that I have not been ignoring her for many years. However, the thought of leaving here without her is really bothering me.
My Weber piano was born in 1937. She was an anniversary present from my husband for our 7 year anniversary. We bought her in Virginia and put her in our front room. We had hardly any furniture. She was the 2nd piece of furniture that we bought together, the rest being all hand-me downs. Our children posed and played with her. #1 son learned to play on her. She moved from Virginia to California (several different homes there!) and then finally to Washington. She has occupied our front parlor, dining room, and even our master bedroom.
But now she has to go. You know, we have to be practical. We likely won’t have room for her. Unfortunately, apparently no one wants a baby grand anymore. First of all, hardly anyone knows how to play the piano anymore. And then there’s the hassle of tuning her, not to mention finding the household real estate to park her. Oh, and did I mention she weighs a lot, like 500 pounds. You can’t just move her around on a whim. She’s a big girl. (All part of the HUGE dilemma.) And, if you ever have to relocate, it is a major endeavor and cost. Turns out that old pianos are a dime a dozen. Those who enjoy pianos and who have the space and time to establish a piano experience apparently don’t want old pianos. They want nice, new pianos.
Now, this really is not snobbish, as pianos are not Stradivarius violins. They mostly get worse with age. So a newer piano is usually a better instrument in terms of sound. That said, there aren’t many new pianos with true elephant ivory and ebony wood keys. I’m sorry, but plinking away on the plastic does not feel right to me. Did you ever hear anyone say they wanted to tickle the plastics? No. There is a tactile as well as auditory and emotional connection when you play the piano. I picked out this piano specifically because her keys just felt right: warm and wise and soft and forgiving.
I also picked her because I liked her action. Action is the spring and response you get when pressing the keys. I had learned to play the piano on a wonderful rosewood upright. I wanted that same give and spring when playing .
I wanted this piano so badly. And I had wanted a piano so much after I left home for college that I took all my sheet music with me. When I was lonely I would put my music into my backpack and ride my bicycle to campus at night to find a vacant music room with a decrepit studio piano. There I would play for an hour or so. Then, I would pack up and cycle home.
So, when I finally got my own piano, I played her all the time. I have to say that I am a very mediocre pianist. Still, it was wonderful (for me at least). At Christmas, I had my books and I would play for hours. Sometimes I would play and my kids would dance around as if in a ballet to the music. They did not care that I messed up or was out of time. (Note: most performances were punctuated with my exclaiming or growling every time I mis-played.)
Over the years, Miss Piano has been somewhat neglected in terms of playing. However, I still kept her spiffy with lemon oil or Scott’s Liquid Gold. I’ve been polishing this old gal for over 30 years, and to me she still looks as good as the day I bought her. It is sad and ironic that now in retirement I will have more time to spend with her, but I will not have the space to keep her.
Tonight I played her again. It was comforting to go back over some of our favorites: You Belong to Me, Sarabande, Desperado, Homecoming, Stairway to Heaven, Time Out, the Holly and the Ivy, Silent Night. These represent the classical, jazz, new age, standards, and rock pieces that I have played on this piano at all different periods of my life.
So I’m sad that I have to part with my piano, even though I’ve neglected her for many years. I hope that I can find her a home full of music lovers who will play with her and make their own new memories on her old, warm keys.