Musical Mirages

A Beginner Craves Piano Practice for the First Time

I felt like a moon-eyed character from a 1970s Tootsie Roll commercial during my two-week summer vacation. Only my obsessive craving was for the piano, not a sugary confection. Sunshine between the slats of our beach house’s elevated deck cast black and white piano keys on our pebbled driveway. The late afternoon ripples on the surface of the ocean were lightly vibrating strings housed inside my upright. After a long day at the beach, even my haphazardly tossed hairband twisted itself into a treble clef, coaxing me to play.

Each musical mirage startled me. I had been taking adult piano lessons for only two years, and while packing for vacation, I had little concern about my being away from the piano for a few weeks. After all, I was only a beginner. Yet once on the beach, I found myself—annoyingly—unable to relax, my hands electrified with a yearning to practice and my mind whirring with melodies left on the music rack at home.

My piano playing had quietly journeyed beyond the peripheral confines of a hobby, and into the epicenter of my life.

Apparently, my piano playing had quietly journeyed beyond the peripheral confines of a hobby, and into the epicenter of my life. I realized that over the past few months, I anticipated my piano practice as enthusiastically as my morning coffee or a sweet treat following dinner.

But how would I satiate this need to play while on vacation? Still not very confident in my abilities, I wasn’t brave enough to locate a piano bar or restaurant and practice in public. I contemplated the full-sized paper keyboard my piano teacher had given me and the half-sized electronic keyboard with which I used to practice before I owned a real piano, and vowed to add both to my packing list for next summer. In the meantime, I tempered my piano appetite by playing with the piano app on my iPad and reading Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto, a moving story of beautiful piano-infused friendships forged in the direst of circumstances.

“The world looks mighty good to me, ’cause Tootsie Rolls are all I see. Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a Tootsie Roll to me!” I was in kindergarten when that Tootsie Roll commercial was popular, and I loved the catchy tune and the silliness of the idea that everyday objects could turn into candy. I also recall contemplating my own five-year-old identity…. What would I want objects in my world to turn into? What was my most favorite thing?

Now it seems that I have found it. Piano, “I think I’m in love with you.”

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