Mummo’s Piano

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I recently added more music to our house. Well, sound, anyway.

My mother moved from her mobile home in Florida to a smaller, more manageable, apartment. In doing so, she had to downsize her possessions. One major item that would never fit in an apartment was the piano that had belonged to my grandmother, Mummo.

Mummo’s baby grand piano was the one she tried to teach me to play on. It’s a lovely, dark mahogany, Stodart piano. It had its own special niche in the front room of Mummo’s home. The technician who came to check it out and find out what repairs were necessary said that she is from the 1920s. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Mummo's House

As a bit of background, Mummo (whose first name was Marion) was born in New Jersey in 1891. She was the next youngest of five children. Her upbringing was extraordinarily Victorian, but she was always something of a rebel. She told me stories, in whispered tones, about sneaking the horse out of the barn, walking it over the hill – out of sight of her parents – and then riding off bareback and ASTRIDE!!!! Imagine, the indignity of a “lady” straddling a horse. She kept some the things she was taught as a child, though, all through her life.

One of her closely-held beliefs was that there were only a very few occupations that were suitable for ladies. Those were – teacher, pianist, or piano teacher. Nursing was off limits because – HORRORS – you would see naked people (even men). My desire to be a racehorse trainer was met with disbelief and a firm dismissal that a racetrack was no place for a lady. Actually, up until the past few decades, Mummo was not alone. There was a widely-held belief that women could not train or ride racehorses. So, Mummo determined I really had to learn to play the piano.

God bless her, Mummo tried. Unfortunately, I was only seven or eight years old when she tried to teach me piano. It was a lost cause – at that time.

She was so gifted! Not only could she play the most intricate and complicated pieces, she composed glorious music that was all her own. I remember her sitting at her piano making it sing the most remarkable songs. Her house was full of music. There was classical, sure, but there was also more popular tunes and Christmas carols. She just could not understand why her wayward granddaughter would rather be out climbing trees or riding horses. What she didn’t realize – nor would I until this past year – was that her granddaughter really was paying attention. I was just too young and too scattered to sit and practice an hour or more every day.

In her late years, Alzheimer’s (although it hadn’t been named, yet) stole Mummo’s mind. She retreated further and further into a world where she couldn’t communicate with words. Sometimes, though, she’d find her way to the piano. Her piano was her voice. It was so incredibly sad for us that this was her sole way to express herself. Even when she was finally moved into a nursing home, they would occasionally find her at the piano in the common area. There she was – a very tiny, sad, old woman making the whole place ring with music.

When the time came to move Mummo’s piano, a dealer came to my mother’s home and told her he would buy the piano and “give” her $500. Once I was told that, I realized that there was no way I could allow “Voce Marion”  (Marion’s Voice – the name I’ve given to the piano) to go to someone who would never know my Mummo. No one else could ever know how desperately she loved that piano – nor ever hear the beauty that came from her fingers. I had to bring it home to be with me.

I still can’t play “her,” but I’m going to learn. I probably will never be able to make that instrument sing like she used to. She will, however, be loved and cared for. I will remember the way she used to sound when a true musician touched her keys. The technician who came to give her a checkup is a talented musician and he sat and played her. That same, rich tone came tumbling out for the first time in probably 40 years. For those few minutes, Voce Marion was in her glory again. The tears just couldn’t be stopped. I could almost feel Mummo standing over my shoulder smiling.

Poor thing, she’ll probably have to put up with some awful clunkers to begin with. I guess the learning curve will be steep as I’m no longer a kid, but I’m going to persevere. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to bring the music that still resonates in my mind to my fingers. I think Mummo would be very proud.

Up Next: Remembering a Dear Friend

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Bluegrass Jams (You Don’t Need a “Ball” Jar)

If you’re reading this in email, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Where does one go to listen to some good bluegrass music? The Del McCoury band isn’t in town. Neither are Dailey and Vincent, Pine Mountain Railroad, Ricky Scaggs, the Grascals, or Rhonda Vincent and the Rage.

 

Find your local bluegrass jam, pull up a chair, and enjoy. You don’t even need a “Ball” jar. (In this case by “jam” I mean a loose association of musicians who get together to play and enjoy music and camaraderie.)  Now, I’m not saying that all jams are equal. Some are definitely more accomplished than others, but they are all fun.

Check the Handsome Man in the Middle

We started going to jams when Jim re-found his interest in guitar. Bluegrass is his music of choice. We found that our Tennessee neighbors (we hope to build and retire there someday) get together on the Fourth of July and play lots of different kinds of music – some of which is bluegrass.

 

There are all manner of  jams in east Tennessee. Some are regularly scheduled, but many others are spur-of-the-moment gatherings of friends. It’s easy to find a place to play when there; check out local firehouses, ask at music stores, or follow your ears to the garage of a local home.

 

Where would we find like-minded folks in Michigan? Seems all we had to do was check local town newspapers and the Internet. We’ve been lucky enough to find several “jams” in our local area. Two are in church buildings, one is at a government building, and one is at a township park. There are also several regular jams within driving distance.

No matter where you are, you should be able to enjoy a bluegrass jam. They’re fun for kids of all ages. From the tiniest of tykes to oldsters who are young at heart (and in their feet). Check it out! You may just find that you’ll be a fan, too.

(By the way, if you like to pick, you’ll be most welcome.)

Up Next: Sugar Beets vs. Cane (It’s All Sweet!)

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) If you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page, go to the bottom left hand portion of the page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. That’s okay, we’ll wait! Below the “Leave a Reply” area, you will see two checkboxes. The “Notify me of new posts via email” will take you through the steps to subscribe.