Being Beautiful: Roll over, Beethoven

There are not many things that stir the soul quite like hearing the one you love play familiar gospel hymns on his new (well, actually used and very old) baby grand piano.

All corners of our home have been filled with the songs of my childhood, stirring up memories of a boy sitting between his mama and daddy on the pews of a little country church, a moment when it was indeed well with my soul.

Mr. Chris has been dropping hints for months leading up to his August birthday that he has always wished for his very own baby grand piano, so when my good friend Sandra found the most charming antique instrument, I knew it was time to put a smile on the birthday boy’s face a bit early. Sandra’s family owns Allegrezza Piano Company, and she has been in on my secret birthday surprise from the start.

It has presided over the parlor for only a few days, but those days have been filled with mostly joyful sounds. After all, he is 25 years out of practice, his music unboxed from serving as a church pianist as dusty as his piano scales are rusty. On quiet mornings and late afternoons, he pulls back the well-worn piano bench, fumbles through the pages of his old Baptist hymnal to “How Great Thou Art” or “In the Garden,” and music wakes the dogs from their slumber. Naomi the Great Dane loves sitting beside her daddy while he plays, her huge cranium hovering over the keys of the treble clef. I think she would attend him there for hours, and who can blame her for sitting front row at her own free concert?

Music has a way of sending us back in time to those places and moments we wish we could have occupied forever. For Chris, it’s time spent with his grandfather at the Rocky Hill Church of God in Christ somewhere up near where Scott County and Neshoba County come together, taking requests from his mama and grandmother while they did their sewing or shelled vegetables, or singing Christmas songs with his sister. His Mama Bell knew the chords to only one song, “The Lightning Express,” and he remembers fondly her playing it on the old upright she bought on credit for 10 dollars, him singing along. For me, the journey leads back to Dykes Chapel Baptist Church where Miss Bobbie Jean shut her eyes and pulled more out of that old spinet than it ever knew it had to give.

Daddy offered me piano lessons, but I quietly considered the fate of my cousin Misty Ann who was forced to practice for hours on end. I did not want that for my life. Chris reads music and plays well, but he knows he isn’t Jerry Lee Lewis. Many, many years after his piano lessons were completed, I take solace in eavesdropping as my Chris plays beautifully, to me at least. As he settles into his 50s, still working on “Fur Elise,” I think to myself, ain’t life grand.

Contact David at [email protected].