When I was seven, my father asked me if I wanted to learn to play the harp or the piano.
Dad didn’t ask if I wanted to learn an instrument, simply which one. I don’t think I had any idea what a harp was, but I chose that instrument because everyone in the fifties was taking piano. One of my father’s (dental) patients was a harpist. That’s how it popped into his mind as an option.
Dad bought a harp for $1,100, a small fortune back then, which stood regally in the small area that divided the dining room from the living room in our extremely modest home. The harp looked as out of place in our house as I looked playing it since I was a chubby Jewish girl with dark eyes and hair and the harp looks better with blond haired, thin, angelic girls playing it.
Mrs. Bannerman, an elegant waspy woman, came to the house once a week to give me lessons. Dad told me I had to practice an hour a day, every day. I guess my dad felt that if he was going to get his money’s worth, I’d better learn to play. I honestly don’t remember if I hated having to practice so rigorously, but I do remember enjoying it when I knew my dad’s patients, waiting in his downstairs office, were listening. I’ve always liked to have audiences. Should have been an actress.
Mrs. Bannerman also had an intimate student recital in her home every year and a big-time recital in a school auditorium. We’d perform in an ensemble as well as solo. It was scary, and exciting. One year I was the only student not dressed in white. I was around 10 and my mother bought me a navy blue and white stiff organza dress that scratched my entire torso. I stood out like a sore thumb in the group photo. I wish I knew where it was now.
I studied harp until I was 17 and went away to college. I actually played pretty well. They wanted me to play in the college orchestra, but my father would have had to ship my harp to school and pay for the insurance. He wasn’t interested. So I stopped playing,
Years later, my husband and I went to my parents for dinner and it took me a moment to notice that the harp was missing. My dad had sold it. I was furious. Although I hadn’t played in years, I would have liked the opportunity to buy the harp from him.
0 Responses to “Geri, “the living angel””
Linda McCoy says:
In the movie The “The Guardian” the swim coach (Kevin Costner) to the Jake Fischer (Aston Kutcher) the young talented, argumentative young swimmer: “Get in the water and honor your gift.”
Toby Wollin says:
OK – I’m going to be really really stern here about this. In 2002, my father threw a clot into his renal artery and ended up in the hospital being told that he’d just crapped out the only decent kidney he had (sometimes, the only luck you have….) and that he’d spend three days a week on dialysis for the rest of his life because no one wanted to risk doing a kidney transplant on him. His response, which hit me like a ton of whatever was “Gee, I guess I’ll never get to go fly fishing in Montana.” Hunh? This was his lifetime dream – to go out to the Rockies and go flyfishing. And now he couldn’t do it. Ever. When I asked him why he’d never expressed it or had arranged for it (shoot, it would have made a terrific family cross country trip), he said (Depression kid that he was), “Oh, I always felt it was a frivolous idea or that you guys would have hated going, so I never did anything about it.” That very day, I sat down and made my list of “Things I always wish I’d done but never got around to doing because I thought they were stupid or that people would laugh at me” list. Number one on the list was “Learn to play the fiddle” (I was a big Celtic music fan at that time). Don’t ask me what numbers 2 through 15 are; I lost the list and I’ve been having too much fun over the past 8 years learning and playing. Now, my parents saw me as this person perfect for piano when I was a kid; I was nailed to a piano stool when I was five and I frustrated a series of teachers between then and when I was 13. No matter what they did or how hard I tried, I could not for the life of me play according to the music. If they played it, I could pick it up by ear but reading music just seemed to me to be this total waste of time. My finding a teacher who would take on an adult with short arms and bone spurs in the neck is another story totally but I found this great teacher who’s big issue was posture and comfort so although we took it slow, I was able to learn well enough to enjoy myself and play with other people, which is half the fun. And she teaches music ‘by ear’ which for me, is a dream come true. When you are past 50, there is nothing standing in your way of doing something you want to do but YOU. I don’t care what it is: ice skating, fashion design, owning your own dog walking business, catering, learning to ball room dance – whatever it is that sets your soul on fire, then DO IT. Because, as my old man said, those last two years of his life when he was tethered to the dialysis machine three days a week, “Life is short; it’s death that lasts a long time.” When you are fifty, you’ve got at least 25 years of really good, energetic life left in you and then at least another 10 years of slower things but still good time. But not if you wait.