Childhood transitions: A changing corner

Today marks a milestone for my 7-year-old daughter.

After months of anticipation, she’s taking her first piano lesson.

I have to confess, this is as much my dream as hers. I don’t have too many major regrets in my life, but one of them was not learning to play a musical instrument. No one in my family had ever taken music lessons, and we didn’t have a piano, so I opted for ballet instead, and played sports.

My daughter’s been asking to take lessons for several years, but we didn’t have a piano either, until recently.

I missed out on a couple of chances for a free hand-me-down (I’m a charter member of Procrastinators Anonymous) and we tentatively made plans to start lessons using an electronic keyboard I had salvaged from my mom’s house.

Then about a month ago — in that way the universe has of dropping things in your lap — a colleague who is downsizing said, “Hey, do you know anyone who wants a used piano?”

“Me!” I replied. After negotiating a very reasonable price we arranged to have it delivered.

It was kind of a bittersweet moment. The only place the piano really fits is a corner that’s been an evolving play area for my children.

When my son was a toddler, it was home to his Thomas the Train set and the beautiful oak train table my brother-in-law built for us. I finally packed up all the trains a few years ago, after my daughter had lost interest as well, and put all of her “Little People” sets on it — the barn, amusement park, village and construction site.

But she outgrew those, too, and last year, after surveying my son's Lego creations strewn around the house, I had an inspiration: the Thomas/Little People table would fit in his room as a Lego table.

So into the empty living room corner moved my daughter’s Dora kitchen, doll high chair and pretend grocrey store/beauty salon, with assorted accessories.

That’s all been cleared out now, to make way for the piano (although most of it just moved to other rooms).

The piano fit nicely into the corner, and I arranged some photos and a Pottery Barn vase on top. Very grown-up looking. And I found myself choked up.

Images flashed in my mind: my son playing with his trains under our first Christmas tree in this house; my daughter refusing to use her potty chair anywhere except right next to the train table (the things we do to get rid of diapers); legions of children happily playing with Thomas or Sonya and Eddie Little People; me wiping up puddles after hair-styling sessions in the salon. Chaos, but fun chaos.

My daughter’s excitement about the piano has overcome my nostalgia. As soon as the piano was delivered she immediately began pecking away at the keys, playing songs she had taught herself on a Barbie computer keyboard and trying out some new ones: “Are You Sleeping?” and “Twinkle, Twinkle” (both mastered) and “Silent Night” (not so much).

Today, when I dropped her off at school, she asked: “Will I be going to piano lessons every week?” Yes, I replied. “Good,” she said with a smile.

On to the next transition.

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Reporter Julie Wurth writes and blogs about family issues, social services and the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Her column, "Are We There Yet?" appears in the News-Gazette every other Tuesday. You can leave a comment below or contact her at jwurth@news-gazette.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jawurth.
 

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Meg Dickinson wrote on April 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm
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Aw, that's great - the piano was a staple of our childhood. For my sister, it was a place for her to flex her incredibly long fingers and learn songs to play in church. She still works as an accompanist, playing for a church every week.
For me, the piano was a place to learn valuable procrastination skills, because my mom forced me to take piano lessons for years before I could start learning violin. I hated it, but have since appreciated all the joy it's brought to our family when Allison sits and plays and the rest of us sing.
I hope your piano brings your family as much joy.

algon wrote on April 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Yes, I have lots of memories of our piano corner. We two sisters don't fit as comfortably now on that piano bench, but we still do love it. I'd love to come over and play duets with E. someday!

Julie Wurth wrote on April 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm
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That would be great! Assuming she continues with the lessons.... I'm holding my breath. Glad to hear you're such an accomplished pianist! I'm not sure I got the piano gene, either, Meg, but I'm hoping the 7-year-old does. She has really long fingers, which should help. :)

Aubrie Williams wrote on April 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm
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In 30 years she'll be calling you and asking if she can have that piano in her own house for her own kids. THAT will get you choked up!

Julie Wurth wrote on April 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm
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I'm sure I'll still have it, because I never get rid of anything. :)