It’s my delight to introduce you today to my friend Christina Esdon. Christina and I met through our publisher and discovered a shared passion for all things theatrical, including whimsical costumes and singing. I’d like to have a karaoke party with her some day.
Christina writes with heart and tenderness. You’ll see it in her writing here and you’ll find it in her book Work in Progress, forthcoming from Booktrope Editions, so keep an eye out for it! How many of us owe important parts of our success to someone who’s encouraged us, pushed us, even been harsh with us for the sake of making a crucial point sink in? Teachers like this are courageous, tireless, and hard to find.
BECAUSE I KNEW YOU
by Christina Esdon
Dim afternoon light creeps through the basement windows, its rays catching dust floating through the air. A bald-headed man rests his head on the ledge of an aged grand piano. Careless notes play on the piano beside him. The sound stops. The old man slowly raises his head and turns to face the little girl next to him.
“You didn’t practice.” He rubs his wrinkled forehead.
An uncomfortable silence permeates the musty basement. The young girl shifts on the bench.
He sighs. “You know, when I was your age I used to ride on the back of a milk truck for three hours to get to my weekly piano lesson. And I didn’t get to play unless my teacher let me. I wore a hole in the carpet standing beside his piano watching him.
“Your parents brought you to me when you were six and I told them to wait until you were seven and come back. But you played for me and I decided to take you on.” He purses his lips, and squints, something he did when he was deep in thought. “Now, I’m starting to regret my decision.”
It’s safe to say that because I knew you, I learned how to play piano. But being with you every week for twelve years taught me much more than that. You were more than a teacher; you were like a grandfather to me. When I was six and too scared to walk down the street to school after my morning lesson, you would pile your large frame into your tiny car and would drive me. When I was older and wanted to take on the world, you taught me to choose one thing and do it well…something I’m still working on.
It wasn’t until I was in high school that I took playing the piano more seriously and actually practiced. I learned to enjoy the process. In fact, writing this piece reminded me how I often forget to enjoy the journey more than the destination.
You taught me that hard work and dedication could get you anywhere.
Your lessons were never lost on me. Even when I decided to major in something other than music in university.
While the focus of our weekly visits was on improving my piano skills, I remember more your views on life – how you would count the strokes you took in the lake, taking pride in your ability to be active at your age. I chuckled to myself as you turned your hearing aid off when your wife was hollering at you from upstairs. I marveled at the fact that you were able to make a living for your wife and children teaching piano lessons in the basement of your house, and continued doing so for nearly seventy years.
I always felt deeply connected to you, Mr. S., so it wasn’t a surprise to me when one day, three years ago, I looked up from my computer at work, tears falling down my cheeks, because I knew you had died. The phone call later that day from my mom only confirmed what I knew in my gut.
You were a constant in my life during turbulent times. You gave me tough love because you knew I could be better. It was like you could see into my soul.
After twelve years of piano lessons, I still have no idea how to transpose time signatures and rely too much on my listening skills because I still suck at reading music, but that wasn’t the point, was it?
You taught me to believe in myself. You taught me to work hard. You taught me to focus. You gave me an outlet to express my emotions. You taught me that even if I’ve played the wrong notes, I must keep playing as if I haven’t made a mistake.
To play the wrong notes right.
I’ve made many wrong turns in life, but because I knew you, I’ve tried to live as if the notes were right, and come what may, I’ve kept on playing.
Christina Esdon is a hopeless romantic and dreamer extraordinaire. She loves to see the world through rose-colored glasses (literally) and has the uncanny ability to find humor and joy in the small things in life. When not writing, she can be found frolicking along the shores of Lake Huron, taking notoriously long bubble baths or contemplating the next renovation to her Southwestern Ontario home.
She can be found on Twitter: www.twitter.com/christinaesdon
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christina-Esdon-Author/237138356329897
And sometimes she can be found tickling the ivories, playing the wrong notes right.
This Post Has 10 Comments
Christina Esdon15 Nov 2012
Thank you for being such a gracious host, Elise! I’d love to karaoke with you anytime!
Elise15 Nov 2012
It’s lovely to have you! Let’s sing from Les Miserables and Wicked. I LOVE those soundtracks! 🙂
K.D. McCrite15 Nov 2012
This was just lovely. You touched my heart with this as tenderly as if you’d played it on that old beloved piano.
Elise15 Nov 2012
Thanks, KD! Christina certainly has an ear for tenderness with her words, doesn’t she?
christinaesdon15 Nov 2012
KD, thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot to me. xo
The Book Hipster15 Nov 2012
Wonderful! <3 I have a fondness for my piano teacher as well. (both of them, cause I had 2 of them)
christinaesdon15 Nov 2012
Glad you felt you could relate, Stephanie. Thank you for reading!
Elise16 Nov 2012
Thanks, Stephanie! I feel like piano teachers speak into our lives over so much more than simply music and notes on a page. I wonder if it has to do with the power of music to move the human soul in mysterious ways?
Becca16 Nov 2012
Lovely and poignant post 🙂 As a pianist myself, I enjoy reading about others experiences with music and how it has helped change their lives.
Elise16 Nov 2012
Thanks, Becca! Music has changed so many of our lives, hasn’t it? So powerful.