a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

Piano Lessons

< by Jill >

As a child, I took piano lessons. My big sister Ann also took lessons, and she always sat in the passenger’s seat of mom’s Chevrolet Cavalier as we drove to Jeanette Pierce’s house for weekly instruction. I remember slinking down the back seat and into the footwell, trying to elude the rearview mirror as I frantically scribbled answers into my theory workbook.

An embankment of yellow, diamond-shaped road signs indicated that we were rounding the final curve to Jeanette’s home. At this point, my heart began to race — Jeanette always knew when I didn’t practice, and this was a problem because I pretty much never practiced.

Her home smelled like shrimp and mint. This is a disgusting smell. Her hair looked like bunched up tulle — deceptively voluminous. She wore blue eye shadow, thick eyeglasses, and mauve nail polish. In another lifetime, she could have been a Mary Kay lady or a Merle Norman model. But in this lifetime, she was a piano teacher, and a darned good one.

That didn’t mean I liked her. She bemoaned my lack of discipline. She made me start all the way at the beginning when I botched a chord. She declared my curtsy “sloppy” and my technique “clumsy.” She allowed no excuses and she never let up. Ultimately, it was her doggedness that transformed me into a fluent pianist.

In the spring, she’d host a concert at a local college. I’d take the stage, tickle the ivories, and give a crisp curtsy before exiting the stage. Even I’d be wowed by the sound that came out of the instrument.

Sometimes, great teachers aren’t the ones we love most — they’re the ones who love us enough to unlock our potential, no matter how painful that process might be.

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