In the Middle with C

Middle C. That’s where the lesson begins.

Middle C, its long dusty root exposed, lifts easily from the old Willard.

In 1960, when I was 8 years old and this piano was 55, the music we played was, perhaps, more innocent. That is not to say it was without guilt.

I don’t know where the Willard was that year — I would guess in a parlor somewhere in Kansas City being mauled by the children of the house — but I was in Schiller Park, Illinois, torturing a different piano. Fingers without finesse or rhythm, fists without mercy. I owe an apology, long overdue, to that Gulbransen spinet, which my mother still has in her protective custody.

It was she who started me on this road of piano abuse.

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A Minor Distraction

One day this fall while I was blazing a new trail through the garage, I discovered one of the old pianos that had gone missing earlier in the year.

“Ah, so there you are,” I said. I’ve been know to speak to inanimate objects.

I was in the midst of clearing the garage so that at least one of the vehicles could come in from the inevitable snow. I swear the garage has never been this cluttered. True, I haven’t been able to pull the truck into my side for years — not since that first winter when I couldn’t bear to see a snowflake on the hood — but we’ve always been able to squeeze in Pam’s little Honda.

The 1905 Willard, unearthed in the garage.

I guess it proves that principle of physics, the one about vacuums.  If you move the truck out of the garage, the space created will immediately fill with piles of stuff and half-finished projects.

The mower needs a tune-up and the outboard motor still must be properly stored. A pile of lumber, enough to build a doghouse, shares the floor with pipes and pieces of guttering. I cut some of that wood a year ago to build a shelving unit. I had sketched it all out on a piece of paper that still might be around here somewhere.

There was painting gear and garden equipment, shovels, brushes and buckets. Buckets! Empty cat litter buckets and plastic pails. Buckets of rags, and buckets of nails and buckets of cords and cleaning supplies. Buckets! They were everywhere, all over the floor and the work benches, and you had to step around them or shove them aside to reach something, anything, over there anywhere.

So I finally got fed up and decided to act. (Plus, remember the aforementioned doghouse? Let’s just say that Pam’s Honda is not fond of snowflakes.)

“Garage,” I said, addressing another inanimate object, “it’s either you or my sanity.”

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