In Charge

I’ve a piano in my house. (I may have mentioned this previously)

Heintzman & Co. Built in 1928. For the last fifteen years it lived in my moms house, prior to that it spent its entire life in my grandmothers living room.

My nephew Eli was next in line for this piano – but at twenty two years old, he has nowhere for it to live at the moment. Pianos don’t like to be moved – and nobody likes to move pianos – mention you need help moving one and people tend to flee like rats off a sinking ship. It was decided then, that Bruce and I would move it to our house – on the premise that it will live here until I’m gone; for one thing, I’ll be damned if I’m moving it again – and for another – I literally had to throw out a desk and an old recliner to make it fit in my wee house.

We ‘think’ it weighs between six and eight hundred pounds. Doctor Google says so – that and the fact that Bruce and I, familiar with moving bloody heavy things – discovered on the first ‘I’ll lift this end while you shove the skid underneath’ – nothing happened. We both stood there dumbfounded, more than slightly alarmed as we had a two hour window to get this thing out the door, down a hundred plus feet of sidewalk with steps, around a corner, down more steps and into our stock trailer. The time limit was due to the fact that we then had to get to moms storage and load all of that stuff around the piano, before the storage closed for the night – then turn around for the nine plus hour trip back home.

I stood outside the door for a few minutes hoping for a random stranger I could maybe snag for help – it was like the whole complex knew it was piano moving day – there were no random strangers to be had.

Plan B. Tilt instead of lift and try not to let it fall over. Onto the skid. Out the door. Pull, shove, slide, huff puff and swear, repeat until we’re down to the road. Back truck in and jackknife stock trailer up to piano – block the road. One would think blocking the road would produce some random stranger type help – but no, all random strangers were content to sit in their Beemer/Lexus/Acura’s staring at their cell phones while pretending the road was not blocked with piano moving farmers who by now were completely out of ‘oomph’ and almost out of good swear words.

Turns out shoving a piano ‘down’ steps is easier than lifting a piano ‘up’ into a stock trailer. Defeat was staring us in the face – I actually considered leaving the thing where it stood – wondered how many days it would take for some irritated resident to phone strata and lodge a complaint of an abandoned piano, and how many more days the ‘who’s going to pay to move the abandoned piano’ bickering would go on at the next strata council meeting.

Finally – two young women who decided they might need to get their car out before we got the piano loaded, offered to help. Bruce managed to lift it one more time and the three of us managed to shove it into the trailer. Bruce ratchet strapped it to the divider panel and we were off to the storage unit to load before closing.

We had intended for this to be a twenty four hour round trip, allowing for icy snow covered roads and some serious pea soup fog on the way back, two short naps on the side of the road when we could actually see to pull over, one short slide away when Bruce – sound asleep – managed to move his legs and accidentally knock the gear shift into neutral, and one stop for truly awful fast food (cringe) – we made it home ten minutes past our goal. 

The piano got to live in the stock trailer for another three days – while we decided where exactly it was going to fit, and exactly how much ‘help’ we might need to get it into the house. Turns out the dead of winter snow/ice situation worked in our favour – we mostly ‘skated’ the thing right into its new home.

We have wood heat and next to no humidity in the house – my moms house was a stones throw from the ocean – I opened the thing up and started stuffing towels into the innards to soak up the glut of moisture that seemed to be leaching out of the workings. I randomly plunked a few keys on occasion and waited ….. and waited….until sure enough a month or so later it was horribly out of tune. Called a piano tuner guy – turned out to be a young fellow in is twenties who had the thing apart in a heartbeat and spent a solid three hours tweaking it back to life, then sitting down to play something fabulous before making me a re-tune appointment in July.

So the piano sits. I avoid it – but I’m not sure why. I haven’t touched a piano since I was probably eight years old…..I was the typical recalcitrant child that tried everything and anything to get out of piano lessons. I have long since forgotten (or perhaps blocked out) how to read music. There are members of my family that are/were natural musicians – I am not one of them. I fall somewhere in the if I practice and practice and practice I could play piano group. On a random day I decide to fish through all of my moms sheet music. Nope. Might as well be written in Greek. On another random day I download ‘piano for beginners’ onto my kindle and give that a whirl. Ah. Now I remember – it was the tedium of scales and endless repetition of ‘Yankee Doodle’ that had me longing to be anywhere but sitting at a piano.

I let the piano sit some more. There are more important things to do than fool around trying to play the piano – aren’t there?

It takes another month of doing all of the other things I need to do – to realize what I’m up to – I am avoiding the piano because I am still in the habit of thinking that’s if it’s not important to the household, or the farm, or the job…..then it’s not important at all.

I remind myself ‘I am in charge of my life now’.

I drive into town and grab a big fat book of piano classics and find on page 42 a piece I am familiar with by ear – one that’s full of sharps, double sharps, flats, naturals and every other goofy symbol I don’t recognize – and once home park my arse at the kitchen table and set about teaching myself to read music.

Progress? Reasonable. I can play the entire piece and only slightly butcher it. Am I going to become an accomplished pianist? Hardly. But that’s not the point – the point is, I’m learning to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – and I’m not feeling guilty about it. That’s a good place to be for me. 😊


About valbjerke

Farmer, Transmission Rebuilder, Self Sufficiency Nut. Like the old school way of doing things. "Fast is fine - accuracy is final" (quote by some way back famous gun-slinger - likely just before he got shot dead)
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12 Responses to In Charge

  1. themomfred says:

    I am so jealous, I don’t seem to be able to move myself beyond the “is it necessary” phase of life. I had never given it much thought until today while reading this. For I do now have time, too much time actually, to do all the things I pushed aside for the last 35 years. So if you can teach yourself music, I can surely get off my butt and set up an art studio or something. Fabulous post by the way. Belinda πŸ™‚

  2. avwalters says:

    Bravo! For a very short period of time in my youth I tried to learn guitar. I had a “mean” guitar teacher who berated me about everything. Only in adult retrospect have I realized that the man was abusive. Unfortunately, he turned me off of any involvement in music for most of my adult life.

    Then came the divorce. For me it was earth-shattering and cataclysmic. In the strange, early days of singledom, I decided to learn an instrument. I was, after all, tackling many of my demons, why not that one, too? My first choice was violin, but my chiropractor set me straight. Then, sax–but the breathing thing intimidated me. One night I dreamed about banjos. I dreamed about playing banjo on a summer’s evening, out on a wide front porch.

    Why not? Even the word ‘banjo’ sounds like fun (I was suffering from some depression so that was an issue.) Then, my brother sent me an old Paramount banjo left to him by a departing girlfriend–who’d had it left behind by a cheating boyfriend. That banjo had history. So did I. That banjo needed restoration. So did I.

    It began a love affair with restoring old (1920s era) string instruments. We (because it’s we, again) now have three banjos, two banjoleles, two mandolins, one ukulele, one guitar and one banjolin. (and a partridge in a pear tree.) I’ve started to learn a couple of times–always torn away by “other priorities.” Still, I’m making headway. I can scratch out a couple of tunes on a couple of instruments. I am beginning to “get” music–at least more than I ever did. I envision a future where I can play. I’ve built the house, with the porch. I’m ready.

    I won’t always be fit enough to build and put in orchards. I may not always harvest my own firewood for heating. But I can see a future in which my creaky bones and stiff fingers are loosened by waves of music, songs to remember, songs to sing…won’t you join me?

    • valbjerke says:

      I’ve an old Gibson left to me through family – same thing – if I practice until my fingers are calloused – I’m β€˜passable’. 😊 good reminder – I really need to take it in and have the timers replaced (one I need to use pliers to turn πŸ˜„)

  3. pgraysurvival says:

    SWMBO plays,by ear.
    Doesn’t read music at all but plays like an angel.
    She says it’s a gift, and it surely is.

  4. I took one year of piano until I found out I’d have to be in a recital. That was it — never did play in public. BTW — it looks beautiful in its new home. Play, girl, play.

    • valbjerke says:

      I recall the dreaded recital – I was such a wreck while waiting, I managed to almost destroy my sheet music – and it wouldn’t stay upright on the piano. One of the teachers had to stand there and hold it in place and turn the pages πŸ˜„

  5. DM says:

    I was thinking about this post again today @ work. I have had to move one of these killer beast pianos twice in my life. No wonder it felt heavy../it was πŸ˜‰ That was a brutal long day getting that thing loaded and home. I would have needed two days to recover. What you wrote about..making our own enjoyment more of a priority. I hear you.

  6. She is beautiful. Congratulations and definitely… Play.
    For. Your. Self!

  7. let the music flow.. they are beasts to move that’s for sure

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