On my grandmother's dresser -- well, I guess it's mine now -- is a five-year-old towheaded girl in a sundress, posing on the bench in front of an upright piano, smiling earnestly into the camera's eye.
She was a true believer in fairness, beauty, and happy endings.
She played that piano by ear. For those of you not in-the-know, playing 'by ear' means unable to read music, yet able to clearly and with relative ease pick out the notes heard (and sometimes seen) inside the mind. When that little girl heard or thought of a tune, any tune, she sat down at the upright that lived first in her grandparents' home and later in her sister's room and picked it out, chords and all.
Eventually she had a little repertoire going, but she steadfastly refused lessons. Her mom knew better than to keep offering to pay for piano lessons -- she was a pretty stubborn kid, and her mom knew how to pick their battles. That's why the girl had no desire to sit next to anyone and be told exactly where to place her long fingers on the black and white keys. Her godmother had said she could be a surgeon with those fingers.
Nine years later, she sat next to the piano in her big sister's room, getting the third degree regarding their previous night's juvenile exploits. Someone was tinkling the keys in a repetitive pattern while a nervous foot tapped elsewhere. For once, she wasn't the perpetrator of Bad Doings. Try telling that to a parent who'd already seen most of the worst a kid could dish out. She was sentenced to grounding in her room for a month. The piano was given away.
She never went to medical school either.
Nearly 35 years later, I climb into the mismatched sheets and pull the hand-me-down boxstore comforter over my legs. The black perma-crinkled polyester nightie seems more fitting now than it did when H#2 gave it to a younger woman who was determined to have a baby. It's comfortable, no easy feat in this Land o' Constant Temperature Fluctuations. Besides, even if the thing has no shape at all, it does have spaghetti straps. And she still has nice shoulders.
Sitting against a bank of pillows, side-by-side with laptops opened, we say hello. He continues peering at gibberish-y code on the screen as his hand glides to my back.
"It's a pimple," he says quietly, his other hand resting on the keyboard.
"Are you sure it's not a mole?!"
"No. Either way, it's okay," he reassures, returning fully to his work.
Most real stories are far better than fairytales.