Nine-year-old Hudson Charles totally rocked his first piano recital. In January, he downloaded an app on his phone, and began teaching himself to play classics such as Fur Elise and The Imperial March, so I decided it was high time to put him in lessons.
As I listened to each of the 20-or-so students take their turns plunking out carefully prepared recital pieces, my mind wandered back to my own piano days.
In the world in which I grew up, preparing a girl for the future included piano lessons because the pinnacle of womanhood was marrying a preacher, evangelist or missionary. Any minister worth his weight in communion wafers knows that if he wants a church to accept him as pastor, his wife needs to have the appropriate skills to fulfill her unpaid, full-time supporting role. If she can’t sub for the pianist on any given Sunday, spontaneously prepare delicious, but budget conscious meals for 20, teach small, glue-eating children to memorize lengthy passages of scripture, sew realistic, period appropriate costumes for the Christmas play, and effectively counsel other women to be joyful and submissive, the congregation will receive her tepidly at best. But if she can do all of that with a smile, and also has a tremendous solo voice, there is a good chance they will hire her husband even if his sermons are a bit on the lengthy and monotonous side.
I started piano in the fourth grade. By seventh grade, it was pretty clear I was never going to bag a preacher for a husband. With my gross inability to play 17th century hymns with enough flourish to keep the congregation from groaning when they were told to stand and sing, I would be lucky if I even got to marry a youth minister.
After another unsuccessful year of lessons, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be a spinster. Every Saturday night of my adult life would be spent cutting out Bible characters for the felt board, and making sure I had a sufficient supply of goldfish crackers for my 2- and 3-year-old’s Sunday School class. I really excelled at typing though. I took solace in the fact that I could be in charge of creating the church bulletins, and then arrive early each week to make copies for the entire congregation. I loved the smell of a church bulletin fresh off the Ditto machine.
God bless my piano teacher, Mr. Jones, who desperately tried to help me. The problem was two-fold:
1. I liked to talk
2. I liked to play inappropriate music
I would arrive at lessons, and spend the first 10 minutes regaling him with stories of life in my conservative, Christian household. He would gently admonish me to play the pieces he had assigned the prior week, but first I would show him the stuff I picked up on my own.
“I heard a sort of boogie-woogie song this week, and I figured it out! Wanna hear?”
The day I pounded out the theme song for “The Young and the Restless,” I thought he might tell my parents not to bring me back. I was never going to make it as a pastor’s wife if my repertoire was limited to ragtime and soap opera themes.
For the recital, I begged him to allow me to play “Music Box Dancer.” It was out of my range of ability, but he relented, and worked with me measure by measure until I was able to play it flawlessly. Once I performed it, I never touched the piano again. But it didn’t matter too awfully much anyway. I only married a Sunday School teacher.
Ginger Lumpkin is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook (Ginger Claremohr), find her on the web: www.gingeretta.com, or contact ginger.columnist@gmail.com.