Sunday, February 10, 2013
I learned to play the piano when I was a little girl. I took lessons from a woman who lived by a small lake with paddle boats. I loved going to her house. Her piano was in the back, beyond the living room, and in a corner of her kitchen. I don't really remember anything about her house, but I remember the piano. It was very old, it was black, upright, and it had real ivory keys. They weren't bright and shiny like the keys on my piano at home; they were chipped and a bit broken, but I loved to touch them. I loved to feel the weight of them beneath my fingertips and I loved to hear the sound her piano made. It was so rich, so deep, so beautiful. I remember her voice as she counted the beat. I remember her pencil tapping the piano when her voice wasn't enough. I remember the metronome she took out when she was desperate to teach me to keep time. I still have all the books, with the dates, the stickers when I accomplished my goals for the week, and the memories of the songs I learned to play piano on.
I never became great at playing the piano. I never seemed to be able to keep time properly, and I never seemed to understand that the volume should increas and decrease- not just get loud and echo on the pedal the entire time. I chalk these defects up to the love I feel for the music. I am so excited to hear the notes that I can't stop to count. I am so wrapped up in the beauty of the echo that I don't realize I am the only one who hears it growing and changing in my head. I love the music.
As a young mom, I moved to a ward where there were few piano players, and even me with my limited skill became a comodity. All of a sudden, I had to relearn how to play the piano.
I practiced. I played during the week on a piano my mom bought from a neighbor. I played in the Primary- and learned all of the children's songs. I played in the Relief Society- and learned many of the Hymns. Sometimes, I even played in Sacrament meeting. Through my grown up years of playing for church, my music repertoire evolved into a collection of church music, with very few exceptions. Playing for church allowed me an escape that all young mothers crave, and it allowed me to worship God through music. The scripture "a song is a prayer unto me" became meaningful to me. I worshiped God every time I played. I brought His Spirit into the meetings I played for, and it brought happiness to my heart to be able to develop a talent and bless others.
Three years ago this month, all of that ended. It is a long, sad story that ended with me being damaged and broken. I could not attend church. I could not even pull into the parking lot without feeling sick to my stomach. I lost so much of my faith and hope and trust in the Church that I did not even know where to turn.
Eventually, I sat down at the piano to play. I looked at my music- all hymns, songs we had performed for Relief Society, songs I had played for the children's program, songs I had loved and played in the church I had loved. I cried. I tried to play something unrelated to the church. I could not. I could no longer play the piano. Every time I sat down to play, I wept. I did not understand why I could not play, but I could not. I would shake. I would cry. I would scream in frustration.
I couldn't believe that my music was gone.
As the years have passed, I have learned to play other music, but not very much. I play occasionally. On Sundays, when I am missing church, when I want to pray but I don't have the words, when I am missing my babies, when my heart is aching and I need release, I sit down to play. Sometimes I can play for 30 minutes, sometimes less. Sometimes I start to play and I stumble, and in frustration I give up because I can't play a song that used to come so easily. I have fought to bring music back into my home. I want my children to be able to sing with me as I play the way they did when they were small. I have been trying to salvage this talent I once possessed. It is hard. Music has been a casualty in the loss of my faith and I still wonder why.
Today, I decide to play for a few minutes while everyone was busy. I walk into my new piano room, pull the French doors shut behind me, pull out the bench, and sit down at the piano that used to be my mother's. I lift the lid and run my fingers over the keys- shiny and smooth, the piano of my childhood. I look at the books, and oddly, I open the Hymn book. I open it up to "Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love," and I play. Tentatively, hesitantly, and quietly, but I play. The sound echoes off of the walls and the wooden floors. It is loud, even without the pedal, and my heart swells with the full, rich sound. I play a few songs, and my fingers feel loose, so I keep playing.
I play in peace for 45 minutes. When I finish, I realize that I have not felt one moment of sorrow. I conclude with a piece entitled, "This is the Christ," a song that I used to play in Relief Society, but I don't feel sorrow or grief. I remember our chorister increasing and decreasing the volume, and I remember the sound of the ladies singing, but I do not feel pain. I feel love, I feel joy in praising God, and for the first time in years, I feel the music in my soul reach to the heavens.