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.
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.
Labels: College, Daughters, Growing up, Raising Children, the red dress club: