Mama asked me the other day how long I took piano lessons.
“Eight years,” I said.
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t think that’s right.”
“I started in first grade and quit at the beginning of ninth.”
“Hmmph,” she chirped. “So you took it that long and can’t play a note?”
I wouldn’t go that far.
I know where middle C is. But that’s about it.
Despite taking piano for all those years, it was not something in which I excelled.
Granny had called and begged my music teacher, Mrs. Roberts, to let me take lessons, promising her I was musically inclined and a dedicated student who would devote my life to piano.
I remember sitting on the foot of Granny’s bed as she made the call and thinking at the time she was going a wee bit overboard. I wanted to take piano, but wasn’t so sure about all this lifelong devotion.
Mrs. Roberts relented, and I started my classes the next week.
It was pure bliss at first. She came and got me out of class and we walked down the narrow hall where an upright piano took up a room about the size of a closet where she taught piano lessons at school.
She commented I did seem to have a natural ear for music and gave me some music to take home.
The following week, she asked me if I had practiced.
“The music I gave you last week? Did you practice?”
I was shocked. I thought that was like some sort of prize.
“I don’t have a piano at home,” I said.
“You’ll need one to practice.”
“How often will I need to practice?” I asked.
I had no idea there was homework involved in this. What had Granny signed me up for?
“I need a piano,” I announced when Mama picked me up.
“What do you mean?”
“For my classes.”
“Can’t you play the one at school?”
“I have to practice at home.”
Mama wasn’t happy about having to shell out the money for the piano, but let me tell you something, I was even less happy about having to practice every day, too. So that monetary pain was minimal compared to that.
“You can get in there and practice instead of watching TV,” Granny told me one morning before school.
She cut me off with her glare that would stop a rhino in its tracks.
“You heard me. Your mama is paying good money for these lessons, she bought you a piano. You get yourself in there and practice.”
I whimpered. My morning routine was easing into my day with a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and watching some Three Stooges.
She gave me the glare again and I whined out an “alright” in agreement.
“Bob, go listen to her,” she ordered my grandfather.
He sighed, not knowing why his routine of watching TV had to be disrupted, too.
I sat on my bench and started picking out the keys from the music.
When I stumbled to find my notes, he asked almost too eagerly if I was done.
“No. I messed up.”
“Oh.” He was looking for his exit route. “Bobby, come listen to your niece play!”
Always supportive, my uncle came into the living room, ready to listen.
After a few notes, he said, “Oh, heck.” That’s the closest to a swear he ever uttered. “I gotta go do something real quick.”
“What have you got to do?” my grandfather asked.
“Just something else.”
“Did I do good?” I asked.
“You did, baby, real good. Keep practicing.”
My grandfather and I locked eyes, a certain understanding growing between us.
“You tell your grandmother I sat here and listened to you play a whole book of music and I’ll tell her you sat here and practiced. Deal?”
I nodded slowly. I was 6, but I knew a dang good deal when I heard it.
He got up and went back to watch TV and drink some more coffee.
I heard him ask Granny if Mama was really paying for me to take lessons.
“She needs to get her money back,” he muttered.
“What?” Granny asked.
“Nothing. She’s doing good.”
Even though I love music, it was not something I ever got the hang of. When I showed up for a lesson shortly after the beginning of my freshman year, I could tell my music teacher was a bit disappointed that after so many years, I wasn’t further along in my abilities than I was.
I looked at the bench, the sheet music, and the keys and decided then and there, it was time to quit.
“How can you quit after you’ve been taking lessons this long?” Mama asked when I told her that afternoon I wasn’t going to continue.
Sometimes, just because we’ve done something a long time, doesn’t mean we have to keep at it if it’s not right for us.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.