Past perfect music goes to the highest bidder

“You need to find six strong men,” my mom said over the phone. She was one hour into the four-hour drive to my house with a 100-year-old piano in the back of a pickup, tied up Clampett-style. “We’ll be there by 7. We’ll have to get the piano inside tonight.”
Two days earlier, my father had called nearly breathless about the possibilities of the auction of an old house and its goods near where he lived as a child. A boy named Norman, who was my dad’s age, grew up there. Norman, according to my dad, was the kid who had all the cool toys.
“If I could have had those toys. Man,” my 68-year-old father said, as his head went swimming with the possibilities of childhood. “They’ve got some fine things in that house — lots of beautiful china.”
Over the course of life, there is much I’ve missed. However, I’ve learned if my football-coaching father is passionate about the possibilities of porcelain, it’s time to be excited.
My parents, technologically speaking, are dinosaurs. Therefore, after our initial auction hysteria, I spent considerable time online looking at the auction catalog and translating information over the phone.
Their goal was to buy a set of china for each grandchild. Focusing on antique dinnerware, I couldn’t help noticing the listed piano. I casually said, “If the piano is absolutely perfect — and only if it’s perfect — bid on it for me.”
I’ve also learned that old pianos are never perfect.
By the time Mom got a chance to see the goods, she called in a dither.
“Jan, the piano is perfect,” she said.
“Mom, the piano can’t be perfect.”
“But it is,” she said. “Norman is here. The piano was his grandmother’s pride and joy. She had it tuned every two years. Willie Mae Mitchell played a recital on it. I’ve checked every note. A hundred years old — and it’s still in tune.”
Mrs. Mitchell, my first piano teacher, was old 40 years ago when I started taking lessons from her. I’ve since learned that she did, in fact, play a Hungarian rhapsody called Falling Leaves by Koelling on this very piano. (I spoke to her sister-in-law, who was able to verify the information because she happened to have a copy of the 1926 recital’s program. That’s the way things work in a small town.)
Even without a complete provenance, I knew what to say to my mom.
And so my mother did.
A day later, I gathered an unlikely crew of nine, young and old, to move the piano. They stood in the dark waiting, discussing and deciding on the best approach to move the heavy music machine. Much hilarity ensued. Watching the group of fathers and sons, friends and strangers work together was a thing of beauty. It reminded me of an Amish barn raising — people coming together to accomplish a goal that a family couldn’t alone.
It made me happy.
After a 15-year-old son removed a door handle and a 14-year-old son shortened a doorstop, the piano fit through the door with one-eighth inch clearance. Then, with a whopping quarter-inch of wiggle room, it fit into the nook I had picked out for it.
Stars aligned. Everyone seemed to realize we were in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
Once in place, three of the burly muscle men took their turn at the piano.
The music was beautiful.
It was, in fact, perfect.

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One thought on “Past perfect music goes to the highest bidder”

  1. “However, if I peel back the layers and reveal my most authentic self,…and that’s certainly not original, but getting to that truth took some work.”

    “…if I peel back the layers and reveal my most authentic self…getting to that truth took some work.”

    “…that’s… not original…” ?

    “…if I peel back the layers and reveal…authentic…truth…”

    “…that…took some work.”


    “…some…” cutting and pasting “…work…”

    is not “…that…original…” ?

    As I teach my students of the creative processes and finding authenticity, I tell them cutting and pasting is like committing and omitting, like erasing and replacing, like pealing and revealing the truth. Doing that is and will always be original, meaning authenticity and originality are synonymous. Having one without the other is an oxymoron.

    “if I peel back the layers…I…reveal…the truth…the…original…truth…the…self…”


    Jan, your authentic self is original:) Always has been. The wonderful American artist Robert Henri says we can’t escape our originality even if we tried. You are not exempt.

    I love you, I miss you,
    p.s. Dan Fogelberg died

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