Memories of a Piano

It’s funny how a memory can be jarred to the surface by something so seemingly unrelated. For me, it was Tara’s post that did it, a weekly display of her beautiful photos taken in a state park in Florida. I read through her post, admired her photos and even left a comment before something about the title of the post began to tug at my memory. Falling Waters. Tara had named her post as such because that was the name of the park she had visited. I scrolled back to the top to read her title again. Falling Waters. Why did I feel like there was something more to those words than water flowing gently in the woods?

Falling Waters. There was something about that name … something from long ago.

And then it was there. A bubble popped in my memory and there it was. Falling Waters. It’s relevance to me was suddenly clear. Falling Waters was music. Falling Waters was piano music.

I could see the sheet music that used to sit on the old upright piano in the living room of the home where I grew up.

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That piano had seen a lot of years pass by, even way back then when I was a child. I remembered it from my grandparents living room. Mom would always remind us that this was the piano she learned on, when she was a little girl. I can’t quite remember how my grandparents came upon the piano, but I’m almost sure it was used when it came to them because my grandparents had only ever had enough money to get by.

I was young, maybe six or seven years old, when the piano came to our house. Mom wanted us to have lessons, and I struggled through them for several years. I learned the notes and the keys. I learned how to keep my fingers curved and keep time to the metronome. But I didn’t love it the way my mom did. No matter how long I took lessons, I could never play the way Mom played. I never loved it the way she did. I never felt connected to the piano the way my mom seemed to be when she sat down to play. I quit my lessons after a few years and have rarely had the urge to sit and plunk out a tune again.

Mom was different with the piano. She took to it like a duck to water. When mom sat at the piano, you could almost see the music flowing through her. Her body swayed as she sat on the piano bench. Her fingers moved fluidly across the keys and she sat upright, her held tilted slightly back as she hummed or sang quietly along to the music. Mom could sing well enough, but it was the notes that came from the piano when she played that I really felt inside of me. When mom played piano, I stopped what I was doing and I felt the music flow over me. My mom and I didn’t always get along so well back then and I put a lot of energy into simply avoiding her so as not to find myself in another argument with her. But when she played the piano, she stopped being just Mom for a while and became her own person, the one who wasn’t constantly wrapped up in caring for four young children, keeping house, preparing meals and all of the domestic stuff that can become such a weight on a mom.

When I think of Mom playing the piano that now resides in my sister’s living room, I usually remember her playing The Blue Skirt Waltz. My dad loved that song and whenever she played, The Blue Skirt Waltz was his request. And as much as I wanted nothing to do with the music my parents enjoyed, wanting instead to be cool and listening to the new stuff on the local radio station, there was something about that old-time music that my mom played that resonated with me.

It wasn’t until I read Tara’s post that I could hear my mom playing piano again. Falling Waters was a gorgeous song when Mom played it. You could close your eyes and hear the notes becoming the sound of falling water.

As soon as I remembered the song, I went to YouTube and found this rendition of the song. And I cried.

I cried because my mom can’t play the piano anymore. She suffers from an extreme and painful case of Raynaud’s Disease. This disease affects the blood flow to the fingers and in my mom’s case, causes severe swelling and discoloration of her fingers. Her condition causes her a lot of pain. Her fingertips are often split open and the slightest touch can hurt her. Mom’s fingertips are often bandaged to protect the sores that plague her. The piano is a thing of her past.

My mom can’t play Falling Waters anymore. All that is left of that song for me is a sweet memory of Mom doing something that she loved.

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18 thoughts on “Memories of a Piano

  1. It’s funny that you bring up the memory of your mother and playing the piano because one of my memories of my father was of him and the piano. When he was young his mother wanted him to pursue a classical music career, but he went on to be an engineer, something I don’t think his mother every forgave him. When we were young the music would be frequent but as his career took off it became less and less. Now I have my love of classical music as the remainder.

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  2. Poignant! What a wonderful memory, but sad that your mom can’t play it. Like you, I never took to the piano, nor did my sister. My daughters didn’t either. But my granddaughter loves piano. She can bring back the legacy of her great-grandmother who loved to sing and play the piano.

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  3. What a shame that something that brings so much joy was taken away. Does your mom get enjoyment from listening to music that is special to her? My mom is 90 and she used to have an organ but now she listens to the songs that she liked to play. Mostly old hymns. I appreciate your crying when you watched this video. You care.

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  4. To think I took piano lessons all those years and never once did I play in a recital where someone played “Falling Waters”!! And it’s such a beautiful song! I loved playing the piano — as kids, we were “forced” to practice and take lessons — but I was totally uncomfortable doing recitals. My heart goes out to your poor mom, unable to do that which she so obviously loved and got great joy from! How sad. I hope she can at least get some pleasure from listening to music these days!

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  5. Memories are sometimes bittersweet. Do you think your mom might appreciate you downloading some of the music she used to play so she could listen to it? I’ll bet she might even close her eyes and lightly move her fingers to the music. You have a start with two of them here.

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  6. That’s beautiful Terri, really. Bittersweet, but still…

    Some people have a true gift when it comes to music, and from your description, you’re mom is one of them. (Maybe you got the photography gene?)

    I’d never heard of Falling Waters before this, and watching and listening to this girl’s recital was really special. Thanks for sharing it!

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  7. Sweet story, Terri. I bet your mom would love to hear this rendition and think back on those days when she played. She especially would love to hear how much her playing meant to you. (Did she realize back then how much you loved hearing her?)
    And how is she doing, by the way? Don’t think we’ve had an update for a while. I’m hoping no news is good news!

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  8. What a heartfelt story. When I was young, I wanted to learn to play the piano, but I never did. There are a lot of things I want to learn how to do, actually, but there aren’t enough hours in the day.

    I haven’t heard this song before. You really can almost picture the raindrops falling as you listen to it.

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  9. I like how the name Falling Waters brought you to your memory of piano music, and how you liked listening to your Mom play the piano even though you didn’t really want her to know that you loved listening to her play!

    I’m sorry to hear that your Mom can’t play the piano any more. Sometimes it’s the memories that get us through the hard times.

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  10. Beautiful memories and beautiful music. My parents bought a old upright piano for us many years back. My brothers took to it better than I did (more musically inclined). I never truly learned how to play except by ear. I can play a mediocre Fleur de Lis. In spite of that, I wound up with the piano in my house.

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  11. There is something really wonderful about a real piano – it is a shame that they are so large and don’t have a volume control, though.

    We had a piano for a while when I was young. No one could really play it – or so I thought – until one day my mom sat down at it and played. It was just stuff she remembered from lessons as a child but it sounded wonderful to me.

    She can’t play now either, due to arthritis.

    Thanks for sharing this, it stirred a lot of memories of my own.

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  12. Gotta love how great memories come back to us in random moments. I had to take piano lessons when I was a kid too and I didn’t care for it. It was okay, but not something I truly enjoyed doing.

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  13. What a beautiful piece of music that is! My grandparents had next to nothing too but somehow had managed to purchase an upright piano in either 1917 or 1918 -don’t remember exactly when my Mom told me they got it but anyway, they bought it through Sears Roebuck, that much I do remember her telling me. We had that piano here in my house until a couple years ago when Mandy insisted on moving it out so it got transferred for a while up to my son’s house and from there, it traveled 45 miles east of her to my older daughter’s place! It’s in dire need of a tune-up for sure, and I had hoped when my aunt bequeathed her lovely Hammond organ to me that I had something to take the piano’s place but now, the organ isn’t functioning -needs a new plug, at the very least. Always something, huh?

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