The Piano Not Played

Remembering dreams of childhood

Photo by Morgan Von Gunten on Unsplash

I have a piano in my living room that I have moved with me for at least three decades. It sits there, waiting. 

I used to dream of playing the piano when I was a child. It called to me. People would tell me that I had “piano hands”, long fingers that could span an octave. 

My father thought it would be a much better choice for me to learn to play the accordion. The days of Lawrence Welk. He thought an accordion would help me bring joy to parties, given that I could by shy at times. Different times, different ideas, different values. He meant well. To him, music was music, no matter which instrument it came from.

I went to the accordion teacher. I asked, secretly, would it be easier to learn the piano later in life if I studied the accordion? He responded that he thought that it would be. So, accordion lessons it was.

I truly never fell in love with that instrument. My father would have me play it for company that came over, accompanying me on his guitar. He would laugh when I told him to change the chord during a song. He could not really hear music, was pretty tone deaf. So, I performed. And hated it. 

I don’t mean to be ungrateful for the lessons and the chance to even take music lessons. My parents were immigrants and never had such a chance. 

But, our inner dreams and longings are ours. And the piano was mine. Not the accordion.

I went to college. I finally gave myself permission to let go of this instrument, this accordion that never became a part of me, completely. I sold the one that I had. It was a relief. It was freeing. 

Life took over. College, relationships, moves, jobs, marriage, divorce, trying to find my balance again as a divorced woman, parents dying, my advancing years. 

I tried taking piano lessons once, but the teacher was more into jazz, which I have not up to this day ever really connected with. And my mother had moved in with me at that point, so things were challenging. We had some difficult dynamics between us. So I stopped the lessons. 

Here I am now, this morning, looking at this piano. I find an ache in my heart about this. This piano was a gift to me, a loving parting gift from my ex-husband as we were divorcing. A lovely gesture and a nod to understanding some of the pain of my childhood. I have been divorced 33 years now. That’s a long time for a piano to be sitting there not making the music for which it was intended. 

I may try and take lessons again. I have some beginner books that I can follow on my own. I may begin with that first.

It makes me think about our lives, our dreams unfulfilled, the directions we take and the distractions that we follow. 

I have let myself get lost in relationships and become focused on the other, to the exclusion of myself. It’s a behavior that I learned early on helped me to feel safer in the world. But it came with a cost. 

I focused on whatever job I was doing and would let myself be consumed by that. It seemed to be the right thing to do. I don’t regret my career and feel good about the work that I did (social worker, therapist). But focusing exclusively on that and whatever relationship that I was in at the time also came with a cost.

I am retired now. And intentionally not in a relationship. And I live alone. And, I can breathe. And stop. And think, feel, and be.

I have taken up painting. Drawing was also something that I loved as a child, but felt the focus had to be on what I would do to make a living. And during the times that I was in college, you could not enroll in an art course unless that was your major. So now I paint. I lose hours doing this. It is meditative.

I am writing now, which I have always loved to do. Primarily I would journal, and keep the writing to myself. Now I write here, and I am grateful. I actually feel an ache inside at times when I feel the need to write about something that has bubbled up. Like this morning. 

So, I am slowly coming back to who I was as a child. What I dreamed of and naturally gravitated to. 

Will I learn piano? Time will tell. 

I can say this, however. There is time to be who you were originally drawn to be. There is time to play your own music. There is time to paint your own canvas. There is time to write your own story.

 We are still alive. We are still here. And we have parts of ourselves that we can still reconnect with. 

There is time to come home to yourself. 

4 thoughts on “The Piano Not Played

  1. Very poignantly expressed Jo.
    My grandson plays the piano, rather brilliantly according to many of the people who’ve listened to him. I look at my own fingers and ask, “Is there talent there? Did my grandson get this from me?” Or is it because my grandson has an Asian ‘tiger mom’ who forces him to practice and take private lessons from a very accomplished, very demanding Russian taskmaster? I will never know the answer to that one. One of the biggest problems I face in growing older is ‘opportunity cost.’ Choosing to invest time and energy in a particular thing usually means I can’t find the time and energy to do the other thing. Hopefully your exploration of your talent in music won’t diminish or detract from your writing, which I and others here enjoy so very much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Steve, for your kind words, as always! I’m not letting go of my writing or my art…. I’m so grateful to have reconnected with those parts of myself that I feared were gone.
      And I also think about where to devote precious time these days and what I may have to let go of, given the ever increasing awareness of time speeding by.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good, I’m so glad to hear that your writing stays on the front burner! That’s my problem too. I’m simply not willing to let go of ANYTHING that brings me joy, peace, contentment and happiness. Even though I’m 80, I still want it ALL!

    Liked by 1 person

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