Monday, January 4, 2010
Music, Mayme and Miracles: My Gratitude
When I was four years old, my mother and I went to visit with the wife of my father's Commanding Officer, Mary Corbishley, and I met one of the great loves of my life. Mrs. Corbishley led me into her parlour where stood this beautiful big thing called a piano. She asked me not to bang on it but said I could play...and left. I have no idea how long she and my mother visited because time and all other reality went out the window as I approached the piano and began to caress the keys. They felt so cool and so big to my little fingers. Each note was a world of its own. I was in rapture that afternoon, playing and making up songs.
For years after that day I begged for a piano but was turned down each time. When we moved to Canada, my best friend used to let me watch her practice (she was forced to take lessons...and hated it!) and showed me the basics of what written music was about. I spent so many hours listening to her play. Then life took us both in different directions. She went to college and I hit the road as a singer and soldier in the Revolution of Love.
In 1973, after being involved in Folk music, I joined a band in Vancouver, B.C. and moved into their communal house. I was thrilled to see a piano in the living room. Michael Creber played this piano and gave me the story about her rescue from a local cheap movie theatre. She was an upright, played for the silent movies. Now that's some lady! Michael would play as I went to bed, the notes drifting up to my attic room and carrying me into dreams. I sang in this band...we called ourselves Union Street, for our address in Chinatown. Michael showed me how to make chords on the piano. When I was pregnant with my son, I made it my project to learn and memorize Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. By the time he was born, in February of 1976, I could sit and play the whole piece.
But life took a turn again. The piano stayed and I moved on with my little family. Putting my husband through school meant no extra money for a piano. That's the way it has remained...no extra money for a piano. Now here I am, fifty-four. Oh yes, there were little electronic keyboards that were affordable but they just didn't call to me like the big beautiful piano that pulls my fingers to its keyboard. I had given up thinking I could have one.
Suddenly an opportunity came up! A friend wanted to get rid of a piano to move her wood stove...but this piano is a family heirloom and her daughter was upset to think the piano would leave the family, though she didn't have a place for it either. With heart pounding...fingers and eyes crossed...I offered to take care of it until such time as anyone in the family should have a place and want it. Oh sweet Joy...my friend's family was happy about the arrangement!!
This little seventy-five key Kawai came home to America from Japan with the family in 1957. Mayme is the matriarch of the family and I am honoured to know her. Stories about Mayme could fill a lot of blogs...and most deservedly so. She was taken out of college and put in one of the internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Just last year she was awarded her college degree and it is displayed prominently in her home.
Mayme met her husband while in the camp and supported his long road to becoming a doctor. Time was the cost of prejudice. A while after the war ended they went to Japan, where his doctoring skills were desperately needed. I heard the story of an appendectomy being done on the kitchen table...with Mayme's silverware bent into surgical instruments. She was and is a strong woman...delightfully so! She also loves music and can still be talked into playing her marimbas sometimes. I can't tell you how proud I am to have Elders such as Mayme-san in my community. Let me tell you, she's an easy person to love. I sang to her on her 89th. birthday and we both got a little teary as she pulled her chair right in front of the band, where she likes to be.
Can you imagine how I felt last Saturday, as Mayme's beautiful piano was brought over and put in my living room. Her daughter told me she was upset at first, when told the piano was going somewhere, but when she found out it was coming to my house she gave her blessings. I still get teary as I write this. Here now, fifty years later, a piano has come to live with me. I felt as if I was four years old again as I caressed the keys. I felt eighteen again as piano chords rang out in my home. The fact that the piano belongs to Mayme and comes with her blessings to care for it means the world to this Home girl.
Thank you to Mayme, Jan, John, and the whole family. Welcome to the Aerie, sweet little Kawai piano. Twenty-Ten seems to hold miracles!