This post might also be entitled “The Life of an Alfred Piano Course, Lesson Book One,” something only a piano teacher can fully appreciate. This particular copy has sat on my piano rack off and on for 15 years, thanks to the Seattle Mennonite Church, which has supplied me with a stream of students over the years.
In the beginning it was Rachel’s book. Rachel now goes to work in a three piece suit, but when she was in grade school she took piano lessons from me. She practiced her assigned pieces all week and when she felt she had learned them, she wrote on each page, week after week: “got down.” Her circular cursive documented that she had nailed down “Lavender’s Blue,” “Classic Dance,” “On with the Show,” and nearly every other song in her first year lesson book.
Fifteen years later, Rachel’s mother referred me to another family who attends the Mennonite church. Lacie arrived for her piano lessons with Rachel’s music books under her arm. Lacie is a walking question mark in striped tights and purple sweaters. “What if?” she always wants to know.
What if I get home and forget how to do this?
What if this page accidentally falls out of the book?
What if Rachel didn’t have a pencil and forgot to write ‘got down’ one time but she got it down anyway?
Lacie and I had been working together for nearly a year when her cousin Addie began lessons. When Lacie finished book one, it was passed on to Addie. By now each page was annotated with two dates, two sets of stickers, “got down,” and the name Lacie. I began adding a third date and the name Addie.
That was okay at first but after a while Addie objected to Lacie’s name being there. I didn’t ask why, it was enough to just keep Addie focused on what we were doing. I thought for a minute.
“Okay, Addie, watch this,” I said.
I extended the long line of the “L” of Lacie and added another joined at the top to create a lopsided A. I put lines on the right side of the “a” and the “c” to create two “ds.” Addie appeared.
“Do it again.”
It was kind of fun. I did it again.
“Let me do it,” Addie said.
I watched Addie turn Lacie into Addie. We both shrieked.
“It’s the magic name,” I said.
Now we do it every week—several times—and Addie never tires of it. I never tire of it either. And we still shriek. Every. Single. Time.
On these warm summer nights I sit outside right before bed and do a crossword puzzle. I have never been much of a crossword puzzler. I am learning to do them now because I am tired of my friend Nancy beating me at Lexulous by hundreds of points and I think this might help. I consider myself a beginner just like Rachel, Lacie and Addie. When I finish a puzzle without having to look up any words in the solutions, I write on the puzzle “got down.” And smile to myself.