Department of English

Spring 2009 Edition

My Piano

Kristy Stoll
Expressive 1010 2nd Place
Professor Tawa

I sit at my piano, and as I begin to play, I enter my own world--oblivious to my surroundings and problems. I allow my subconscious and fingers to take over my mind with the music that creates harmony in my soul. I can forget where I am until my six-year-old son enthusiastically chimes in on the keyboard accompanied by his permanent shadow, a black lab named Bob, howling in unison. There is no quicker way to snap out of a reverie.

I was introduced to playing when my grandparents loaned my mother the piano from their house. I was thirteen, and I fell in love with it. I wanted to be able to make it play so desperately that I could taste it. I begged my mother for lessons, but she insisted that she didn’t have the time or resources for piano lessons. Out of despair, I picked up the sheet music for Everything I Do, I Do It for You, and using a diagram I found showing the notes on the music staffs and their corresponding location on the key board, I slowly and deliberately taught my fingers the song. I correlated the beats with simple math, and through this process, I was able to close my mind to unpleasant things, for a time at least. Months later I was able to play it perfectly, and I really felt that I had earned the music. I found another song in the stack, Beethoven’s Fur Elise, and I repeated the process, finding it a little faster this time. Once I had mastered a piece of music, I felt that I owned it--that I was worthy of it.

Eventually my mother abandoned my sister and I, and we went to our grandmother’s for the remainder of our teen years. They were the most peaceful years of our lives, and a time that I would look back on with longing from adulthood. Some evenings I would play the piano for hours with my grandmother listening and encouraging me, and making requests for her favorites. Gradually, I associated playing the piano with safety, love and hope.

After leaving my grandmother’s house, I entered a bleak period of my life where my soul did not make music. I was in a physically and emotionally abusive situation, and I despaired at learning that I was expecting my son. Having never lived alone or supported myself, I was afraid to leave with a baby. Eventually, the violence in my personal life escalated to a degree that trumped my fear of raising a baby alone. The police came, and I spent a night in a California battered women’s shelter with my one-year-old son. I knew that he deserved better. I decided that night that my son would have better if I had to walk through fire to get it. I awoke to a new outlook, squared my shoulders, and left for Utah.

We were given space in emergency transitional housing, and I went to the food bank, as I did not have enough money for even the barest necessities. I found my first real job. Three months later I rented a house, and my pride refused any further public assistance even though we were eligible. We didn’t have extravagances like cable TV, and we entertained ourselves with gardening, building snowmen, taking nature walks and reading. Michael is the center of my world, and I was devoted to his growth. We had eyes only for each other. Though challenging, it was a very happy and gratifying time for us. The result of such specific focus would be a four-year-old who could read and was completely comfortable and confident in the stability of our small family. He was vibrantly happy, which thrilled me to the core. I was making a life for us by myself, and the knowledge empowered me. I began to set my goals even higher.

I was rapidly promoted to the top of my company and began receiving commission from my superior negotiating tactics. I was able to save more than I needed for a down payment on a brand new three-bedroom house, and I closed on our new home three years after the night I decided to forcefully change my course. I also had enough money to buy a brand new piano. The day that I went to the piano store, I only played four pianos because I immediately recognized a kindred spirit in the solid oak Hobart M. Cable. It had keys that moved like they were made for me, and it seemed like it already knew “my song.”

The day that the most beautiful piano in the world was delivered to my very own house was one of the best days of my life. I sat with my four-year-old in my lap and played. He held my face in his hands and said, “Why do you cry, Mama?” I couldn’t answer. I just held him and allowed my tears of happiness fall. I had made it. There was music and all the wonderful things I had learned to associate with it in my home again, in his home.

Now my life is very different. I am happily married, and I don’t worry about the same things anymore. I get to worry about remembering to get dog food and preventing door “dings” in my brand new car, not where the money for the electric bill is going to come from or how to pay for my little boy’s medicine. My piano stands as testimony to my struggle and a trophy to my triumph. When my young son stomps his foot and insists he doesn’t want to go to piano lessons, “my cup runneth over.” I thank God that my son doesn’t understand why it matters so much to me.

And so, from the sidewalk of our home, music can often be heard in the evenings. It is sometimes accompanied by the random pounding of either very high or very low notes, dog howling and laughter. The most important part is the laughter. I welcome my son’s disruption to my meditative playing like the desert welcomes the rain. My love for him has been the driving force in my life, and that love has made all the difference.