Dreading Saturdays

My first and last recital

My first and last recital

Dreading Saturdays

It was 1975 and I was a mere 10 years old, so forgive me that I don’t recall all of the details.  What I do remember is that after a conversation between my mother and grandmother, followed by whole-hearted agreement by my dad, it was settled.  I was to begin piano lessons.

I was blessed with a family that showered me with praise and always had high expectations for my success, so I just assumed I would learn all my favorite songs quickly and figured I could count on even more of their attention which I coveted.    Undoubtedly, my grandmother believed I could give even Mozart a run for his money.  I can just hear her saying, “she’s a natural” and “listen to her play, she is gifted”.  My grandmother, like many others, thought her grandchildren were the cutest, brightest most wonderful grandchildren ever born.

My lessons would be given by an elderly lady we shall call Mrs. W. who had taught many others in the community, including my uncle.  I didn’t know much about her, but the adults in my family lavished praise on her teaching ability.

As with any “first”, I was both excited and a little nervous as my mother and I pulled up to the Community church where my lessons would be held.  We entered using the back entrance and were greeted by Mrs. W.  My first impression was that she was old and her perfume made my nose stuffy.

She looked different than my grandmothers as neither of them wore makeup and one never wore jewelry at all.  Mrs. W. had carefully applied pink lipstick and I could see the powder dusted on her face.  She had lots of brightly colored costume jewelry, which I would have loved to have tried on, but would never have thought of asking, not even after I knew her well.

My mother never stayed in the room with us for lessons.  I don’t know if she ran errands or waited in the car, but I know she was always there when I was finished.

The first few lessons were tedious and had more to do with learning to read music than actually playing the piano.  I remember drawing the notes on pre-printed pages.  When I had a basic understanding, she let me begin to play.

After a while, the lessons were devoted to playing whatever Mrs. W. assigned.  This is when I began to find her teaching tactics somewhat nerve-wracking.  If I missed a note, she would rap my knuckles with a ruler.  She was also a stickler about hand placement and countless times I had my hands pressed down firmly, a little too firmly, onto the correct keys.  I don’t want to give the suggestion that I thought her cruel.  She was just very strict and stern and wanted my completed undivided attention to detail.

I complained to my parents about Mrs. W’s method for correction but my whining didn’t garner much sympathy .  My dad just said I needed to spend more time practicing.

This piano lesson idea was losing its appeal rather quickly.  I didn’t want to give up play time or my beloved reading time for more practice.  I didn’t enjoy it like everyone thought I should.  I was also tired of having my Saturdays interrupted.

I pouted, pleaded and begged to quit, to no avail.  Saturday mornings probably became just as tedious for my mom as I faked illness, and made other excuses to get out of going.  When those plans failed, I moped around, with a long face, acting as though they were sending me off to some horrible fate.

My dad finally said if I would do my best and give it a fair shot, that if I still hated it after my first recital, I could quit.  Ahh, a glimmer of hope.  Now I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I was giddy the night of the recital, mostly because it would be my final one, but also because I was prepared and felt I would do well.  I did my best and I could tell by their faces that my parents were very proud of me.  Mrs. W. told them that I had potential, which served to encourage them in their wishes that I continue playing.

However, a promise is a promise and my dad kept his.  I remember him pleading with me not to quit.  My dad isn’t very talkative, but he gave it his best.  After my decision was made, I felt relieved, yet sad for my dad.  I can still remember that so clearly.  I hated piano lessons more than I cared about his wishes.  It took some of the joy from my release from captivity.

In retrospect, I made a silly, selfish choice; one that I have regretted many times.  As I think back on those days, I know it was a sacrifice for them to spend money on lessons, especially when I gave up so easily.  I am surprised that they allowed me to quit.  After all, what does a 10 year old know?

It always amazes me how clearly I remember the times when I made the wrong decisions, especially when, in doing so, I hurt others.  I guess that is a good thing, because if we forgot all the bad, we would just continue to repeat it.  I think memories like this one caused me to look back and fully appreciate the opportunities I was given and the love that motivated them and I am thankful.

Comments

  1. My foray into piano lessons pretty much mirrored your experience. I went through 2 years of Saturday morning lessons, and quit after my first recital. I regret quitting. The dumb things we do as kids! 😞

  2. I really like your take aways from remembering this! Thanks for sharing!

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