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A Christmas Tradition This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Annie's earliest memories were those of cozy Christmas Eves at her aunt's house. She remembered scenes of dancing fires and twinkling Christmas tree lights, which illuminated and warmed the vast living room. Outside, it was bitterly cold; snowflakes were grasped by gales of frigid wind and hurled in all directions, but inside it was cozy. Warmth radiated from the laughter and love of so many of Annie's relatives, all gathered together for the holiday season. There would be conversation and stories, and games with her cousins throughout the day, but the time that Annie treasured the most was ten o'clock when the music began.

All of the relatives congregated in the living room, gathering around the beautiful baby grand piano with their Christmas songbooks open to page one. Then, there would be a stunned silence as Annie's grandmother appeared on the staircase in the corner, elegantly dressed, descending like some silent entity from heaven. She would sit upon the glossy black wood of the piano bench, her skirt flowing around her, and her head held regally high, seeming so untouchable, so unreal. With her back erect, and her long slender fingers frozen momentarily over the keys, she looked as though she should be playing at Carnegie Hall rather than at a family gathering. But as Annie watched her grandmother strike the first note, she noticed a change. Her face softened, and a small, private sort of smile transformed her appearance into a woman in love. It was not the type of love that flows between two people, but rather love of music, of the notes that she tenderly made flow from the piano.

And, as Annie's relatives began to sing the carols her grandmother dictated, there was a change in them also. Annie glimpsed loving, tender smiles between her oldest cousin and his girlfriend, as well as sheepish smiles between her aunt and mother, who, had recently been fighting over a now-forgotten topic. The music that soared from their lips healed and united, and her grandmother led these transformations through the harmonious piano chords that she effortlessly created.

Annie was always mesmerized by her grandmother's aura of power, and she wanted more than anything to become like her. They were very close, even sharing a common name, passed on through tradition. During the year, Annie's grandmother gave her piano lessons because of Annie's deep desire to learn to play. Annie was a loyal pupil, and learned notes and rhythms well, but there was something lacking in her playing. Annie's grandmother told her many times that notes and rhythms did not make music, but rather that the feelings and emotions of the musician that made the euphony of sound. Her grandmother's words were a constant echo in her head, "Annie dear, you must make the piano one with your fingers, and your music an extension of your very being. The music will not laugh at your emotions, it will only make them richer." But Annie could not comprehend this. For years she tried in vain, but remained only an average player.

In the summer before Annie's sixteenth birthday, her grandmother passed away after a long and hard-fought battle with cancer. Annie's world fell apart, and she was deeply distraught. Her interest in almost everything was lost, and sadly enough, she gave up her last tie to her grandmother: the piano.

Because of her grief, Annie was barely aware that Christmas was upon her. As her family traveled to her aunt's, she passed the time willing the steady rhythm of the wheels to turn around and bring her home. As she feared, the memories of her grandmother were deeply prevalent in her aunt's home. There was a melancholy atmosphere, and Christmas Eve day was a little quieter, with fewer stories and games than in the past. Annie could only dread ten o' clock, knowing that for the first time in her life there would be no music.

That evening, Annie's aunt pulled her aside, and much to her surprise asked Annie to play the piano to accompany their voices.

"Oh, I mustn't. I can't take Grandmother's place. I would only insult her memory," Annie exclaimed, horrified.

Her aunt's reply was "the tradition must live on in order for your grandmother to."

That night, when the clock struck ten, everyone looked expectantly toward the staircase, but there was only darkness and silence. The family seemed to die a little as they watched and waited for an event that they knew was no longer possible. The piano stood solemn and lonely in the corner, seeming as though from a time long past. Annie looked to it with a heavy heart, knowing that she hadn't the courage to play it. But much to her surprise, she began to find herself strangely drawn to it. Her heart lightened, and as though in a trance, she walked to it arid touched its cool, polished surface. A wave of emotion so strong that it threatened to knock her over rushed through her. She could feel the vibrations of past songs in the strong wood, but more than anything, she could feel her grandmother's spirit. She could again see her smile and hear the songs and laughter.

Before she realized what was happening, Annie sat down and began to play a Christmas carol. Her notes were strong and beautiful, but not like the chords that she used to play. They were alive and soaring with feeling. As the smiling family gathered around and began to sing, Annie caught a glimpse of her reflection in the glossy shine of the piano. She saw a familiar faint smile on her lips before her reflection transformed into that of her grandmother's. Together, they smiled, and Annie knew that her fingers were no longer solely hers, but an extension of her grandmother's. The tradition would live on. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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