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.
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.