Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Piano on the Lake

Maybe the fish can play it now.

All through her childhood, the piano was there.

It dominated the living room and drew everyone who walked into the house towards it.

Her father, a famous jazz musician, got the piano as a gift from Miles Davis after filling in at the last minute on a European tour.

Growing up, I remember the sounds of the piano. The entire house exuded music. Every day there'd be glissandos and counter-melodies drifting through open windows out into the street. If I'd walk by in the evenings, I could see her in the living room, practicing. I sensed her feet pressing on the pedals as the music increased in volume.

During High School she'd complain that she'd rather go out skating on a frozen pond but her father made her stay inside at the piano. When she'd look out the window at people walking by carrying ice skates, it was almost too much for her to take.

A few years after she finished college, her father died and her mom sold the house. She took the piano. Dragged it with her to 14 apartments and 3 houses in 6 states. The piano lasted longer than both her marriages.

She said as long as she had the piano a part of her father would always be alive.

Then, last winter, she was moving again. With the piano and all her stuff packed in a U-Haul Truck. On a mountain pass, another car skidded into her lane and she swerved. The other car righted itself and was soon gone in the night. But she fishtailed and spun around, striking a guardrail.

The back of the truck opened and the piano came crashing out, down a ravine, losing its legs. Eventually, it came to rest on top of a frozen lake.

She stood by the edge of the road, marveling at the weird moonlit sight of the grand piano on the lake, a gift from Miles Davis long ago. And she heard a slow crack that grew in volume. But her feet were nowhere near the pedals.

And she watched, mesmerized, as the piano slowly sunk below the ice until it was swallowed up by the lake.

The next week I ran into her on a street in our hometown. I hadn't seen her in over 15 years and was pleased to see she looked lighter and happier than she'd ever been. She told me the story of the piano and the lake. She had no sadness about it, just a general sense of relief.

We said our goodbyes and I knew she'd been wrong about needing the piano to keep a part of her father alive. As long as she had music, part of him will always be alive.

I turned to go back to my car and she continued down the street, carrying her new ice skates, walking out in the crisp winter air to the frozen pond down the block from where we grew up. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)


Alex said...

8 said...

Thrilled that someone else enjoyed "Love Is A Mix Tape" too.

Alex said...

Michael, I loved "Love is a Mix Tape," -- it drew me in even when the song choices drove me up the wall. :)