The Music Died

This post was written in response to a prompt from: the red dress club:


This was absolutely the last time she would touch a piano; the last time her fingers would tease out the intricate patterns of notes and rhythms from the keys, black and white.  It was the last time her hands would repeat the conversation that has been going on for centuries.
“Stay after class,” her teacher told her, the day she let the conversation die.
She sat.
He told her she should major in music.  She could teach piano lessons to little kids.  She could stay home and raise her children while her husband went off to work.
Possibly, she thanked him.  Then she stood stiffly and left the music building forever.  A window in one of the upstairs practice rooms was thrown open.  The notes of a flute hovered in the air for a moment—blending with the bittersweet scent of the honeysuckle that grew there—before fluttering to the ground.
She stormed across campus.  Slammed into her dorm room and threw her music folder on her bed.  Sheet music scattered across her bedspread.  “I’m dropping my scholarship.”
“You can’t do that,” her roommate said, looking up from her psychology book.
“I’m not going to college to stay home with my kids.” 
The next day, she marched over to the music department and signed the proper paperwork, releasing her from her obligation to the orchestra and relinquishing the scholarship that paid for weekly piano lessons. 
Her fingers itched constantly for a piano.  She wanted to have the old conversations.  But she never touched a piano again. 
She declared her major in business.  She would be smart and shrewd and would make a name for herself by doing Big Things in this world.  There was no value in staying home with children; no value in keeping a house and cooking endless meals that nobody appreciated anyway.  There was nothing to be gained from library trips, planting a garden, playing endless games of Clue and Scrabble and Monopoly.  God knows, there was no value in giving piano lessons.
She got her degree and got a job and got married and got pregnant.  And suddenly she found that the career she’d envisioned wasn’t important.  She baked cookies and walked to the library and changed diapers and went on play dates.  She listened to Beethoven on the radio and found her fingers playing along in the emptiness of the air.
She raised her daughters to be independent and fierce.  To be smart and shrewd.  She raised daughters who want to make a difference in this world; daughters who want to do Big Things with their lives.  They claim they won’t cook and won’t clean and won’t stay home with the children. 
She wonders whether she’s made a mistake. 
She wishes she could begin a new conversation; wishes she could tell them that the Little Things she scorned—the care-taking and the cooking and the cleaning and the driving—all matter.
But that’s a lesson one cannot learn in a college classroom; a lesson her daughters do not want to hear from her.
And so, she listens to Beethoven and plays again the empty air and thinks back with sad fondness to the bumbling music teacher and the young girl she once was.  She looks around at her clean house, her well-fed children, the just-picked strawberries tucked into the freezer.  She glances at the corner of the family room, where she’d put a piano, if only she had the money.
The girl so willingly gave up the conversation, believing it a worthless endeavor. 
Of course, she was wrong.

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: The Music Died

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Music Died

This post was written in response to a prompt from: the red dress club:


This was absolutely the last time she would touch a piano; the last time her fingers would tease out the intricate patterns of notes and rhythms from the keys, black and white.  It was the last time her hands would repeat the conversation that has been going on for centuries.
“Stay after class,” her teacher told her, the day she let the conversation die.
She sat.
He told her she should major in music.  She could teach piano lessons to little kids.  She could stay home and raise her children while her husband went off to work.
Possibly, she thanked him.  Then she stood stiffly and left the music building forever.  A window in one of the upstairs practice rooms was thrown open.  The notes of a flute hovered in the air for a moment—blending with the bittersweet scent of the honeysuckle that grew there—before fluttering to the ground.
She stormed across campus.  Slammed into her dorm room and threw her music folder on her bed.  Sheet music scattered across her bedspread.  “I’m dropping my scholarship.”
“You can’t do that,” her roommate said, looking up from her psychology book.
“I’m not going to college to stay home with my kids.” 
The next day, she marched over to the music department and signed the proper paperwork, releasing her from her obligation to the orchestra and relinquishing the scholarship that paid for weekly piano lessons. 
Her fingers itched constantly for a piano.  She wanted to have the old conversations.  But she never touched a piano again. 
She declared her major in business.  She would be smart and shrewd and would make a name for herself by doing Big Things in this world.  There was no value in staying home with children; no value in keeping a house and cooking endless meals that nobody appreciated anyway.  There was nothing to be gained from library trips, planting a garden, playing endless games of Clue and Scrabble and Monopoly.  God knows, there was no value in giving piano lessons.
She got her degree and got a job and got married and got pregnant.  And suddenly she found that the career she’d envisioned wasn’t important.  She baked cookies and walked to the library and changed diapers and went on play dates.  She listened to Beethoven on the radio and found her fingers playing along in the emptiness of the air.
She raised her daughters to be independent and fierce.  To be smart and shrewd.  She raised daughters who want to make a difference in this world; daughters who want to do Big Things with their lives.  They claim they won’t cook and won’t clean and won’t stay home with the children. 
She wonders whether she’s made a mistake. 
She wishes she could begin a new conversation; wishes she could tell them that the Little Things she scorned—the care-taking and the cooking and the cleaning and the driving—all matter.
But that’s a lesson one cannot learn in a college classroom; a lesson her daughters do not want to hear from her.
And so, she listens to Beethoven and plays again the empty air and thinks back with sad fondness to the bumbling music teacher and the young girl she once was.  She looks around at her clean house, her well-fed children, the just-picked strawberries tucked into the freezer.  She glances at the corner of the family room, where she’d put a piano, if only she had the money.
The girl so willingly gave up the conversation, believing it a worthless endeavor. 
Of course, she was wrong.

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37 Comments:

At May 25, 2011 at 9:34 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

Beautiful story Kelly. There's an Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award waiting for you over at my blog.

 
At May 26, 2011 at 6:23 AM , Anonymous Dafeenah said...

Hindsight is always 20/20. It's funny how in youth we declare we will never be like "that" and then as we gain experience we realize "that" is exactly what we want to be like. Very well written.

 
At May 26, 2011 at 7:54 AM , Anonymous Cheryl P. said...

I think Dafeenah, hit the nail on the head. How clear the view is when we are looking at it in the rear view mirror. You post was lovely.

 
At May 26, 2011 at 1:18 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! And thanks for that award. It was a lot of fun passing award forward.

 
At May 26, 2011 at 1:20 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for the read, Defeenah. And thanks for pointing me to the red dress club. Love that site!

 
At May 26, 2011 at 1:21 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Yeah, people can't believe that I did that. Pretty dumb move.

 
At May 27, 2011 at 9:09 AM , Anonymous The JackB said...

My grandfather used to say that you can't screw an old head on young shoulders.

 
At May 27, 2011 at 9:26 AM , Anonymous Brandon Duncan said...

This was good. How many times do we see this in our lives? I know I have a few times. Things have a funny habit of coming around full circle.

As for the writing, I would say to watch the 'tense' changes. Other than that, well done! :)

 
At May 27, 2011 at 9:31 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Wise man, your grandfather. Thanks for reading.

 
At May 27, 2011 at 9:31 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At May 27, 2011 at 9:34 AM , Anonymous Valerie said...

Well done! I absolutely loved this! I have a daughter, and I'm going to have her read this:)

 
At May 27, 2011 at 9:52 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Valerie.

 
At May 27, 2011 at 10:02 AM , Anonymous NatureGirl said...

Bravo! From a mom of four with a college degree I "don't use"! WELL SAID!

 
At May 27, 2011 at 10:05 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks so much for reading. The funny thing is I wanted to go into creative writing/English but, for a variety of reasons, did not.

 
At May 27, 2011 at 11:25 AM , Anonymous Fluteitup said...

I'm a music major, and I have this battle constantly. I know my dream is more important than money.

Found you through TRDC Red Writing Hood

 
At May 27, 2011 at 11:32 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for coming over!

 
At May 27, 2011 at 2:23 PM , Anonymous Sarah said...

Ahhh, the ways the world changes our dreams. And, you did a great job reminding me how I felt when I changed my plans in life. So well written with great visuals. My fingers are itching to play piano in the empty air....

 
At May 27, 2011 at 2:26 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Sarah. Someday, I'm going to get that piano...

 
At May 27, 2011 at 3:02 PM , Anonymous theTsaritsa said...

Great piece! Stopping by from TRDC

 
At May 27, 2011 at 3:20 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for coming over!

 
At May 27, 2011 at 3:21 PM , Anonymous JackieBug said...

I walked away from theater and there are days, when I was younger that I couldn't help but wonder. Now, however, I am so thankful that the things I have invested my life and heart into are eternal. I love the legacy of my life. And, I actually, also, love my life.
Thanks for this. I could relate. :)

 
At May 27, 2011 at 4:04 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks so much for reading. Glad you enjoyed it.

 
At May 27, 2011 at 4:50 PM , Anonymous Mel said...

"the conversation that has been going on for centuries." I liked this imagery so much. And this story is so relatable, at least from the perspective of middle age and parenthood. If only we could tell our younger selves what was really important. Loved it!

 
At May 27, 2011 at 4:58 PM , Anonymous Kathy Kelly said...

This made me cry and now I know why I force my kids to take piano lessons even though I hated it after 10 years

 
At May 27, 2011 at 5:13 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

It's not supposed to make you cry! Yeah, "Squints" wants to take piano lessons, but unless we get one of those cardboard keyboards that Mom used to have, it's not happening for awhile.

 
At May 27, 2011 at 5:14 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Mel! I have to say, I read your piece today and Blogger wouldn't let me comment. Loved what you had to say.

 
At May 27, 2011 at 6:28 PM , Anonymous Momfog said...

I really loved this. I gave up the piano because I wanted to play outside more. Ahem. Stupid! I do have a piano now and I do play, but there's not a day I don't wish I'd continued with the lessons. Great read!

 
At May 27, 2011 at 7:21 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading! I'm going to get that piano someday soon.

 
At May 28, 2011 at 8:10 AM , Anonymous May said...

I looked at this prompt time and again and nothing struck me. I LOVE what you did with it. The truth in it just carries it. Once that first pregnancy came (which was two weeks after grad school!) I have not cared about career since.

 
At May 28, 2011 at 8:56 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, May!

 
At May 28, 2011 at 9:37 PM , Anonymous Galit Breen said...

I really love this take. We think that we know so very much when we're young, don;t we?

I adore how you captured how much our perspective changes once we become mothers. It's breath-taking, isn't it?

 
At May 29, 2011 at 7:07 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Galit!

 
At May 29, 2011 at 11:20 AM , Anonymous Akagaoan Labirdie said...

Very relatable. Society often forgets just how important it is to take care of your children and be there for your family. It is the foundation of everything. I really loved this.

 
At May 29, 2011 at 1:21 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks so much for reading.

 
At April 21, 2012 at 8:05 AM , Anonymous may said...

The push and pull. Do we ever really resolve it? In college I felt just like this...working too hard to give it all up to stay home. Then with the kids all other ambition felt so secondary. But raising daughters I want to make sure they feel all things are possible for them. But when I become a grandmother what will I hope for my grandchildren's care?! Ahhh....it never ends!

 
At April 21, 2012 at 12:28 PM , Anonymous sheri leach said...

It's so true. I can't even begin to describe the differences between what I want from life now and what I thought I wanted "then". In our youth we just can't know what is of the greatest importance ... or we would never get the opportunity to make the mistakes that get us HERE.

Great post. Loved it.

 
At April 22, 2012 at 6:42 PM , Anonymous Jennifer Worrell said...

Wow! So powerful! I miss playing, too...

 

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