I Hold the Key: Ending on a Good Note

By , Fairfield, CT
Every ordinary thing that someone does is done for a reason. If you think back, you’ll always be able to trace an insignificant part of each day and link it to one simple event, one that probably appeared unrelated without the connection.
I’m not going to lie and say I have had any life changing realizations, discoveries, or even a decent memoir-worthy story to tell. But the tiny events that make up each day have their own stories.
Take studying, for example. It’s pretty normal that when I find out about test, I study. I put pressure on myself to do well only because I know that I can, as long as I try. I know that I get out what I put in.
As I walked down the hall one day, a friend of mine complained that her parents put a lot of pressure on her to do well in school. It was early in the morning and I wasn’t quite processing what she was saying until one question darted out and woke me. “Where do you get your motivation?” she asked.
My motivation comes from one person—me.
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I was six years old and the thought of effort had never crossed my mind. I jumped around through the doors of the Elderly Home that I’d been preparing to perform my newly found piano skills at. The June sun beating down on my head somehow excited me more. I was playing Mary Had a Little Lamb and had practiced minimally (at most), touching the piano only at lesson times. My mom turned towards me and began her primping. Twisting up my purple rhinestoned skirt, smoothing out my tucked-in shirt, fluffing my hair for what felt like hours. My dad took one look at me and gave me a thumbs-up with the hand not holding onto my ten-year-old sister’s fingers--the fingers I followed with every move I took..
Watching Elissa perform seemed like watching Beethoven play to me. The fourth grader seemed like such a pro as she marched up the stairs, took a deep breath, and played with perfection and poise as she had rehearsed earlier throughout the month.
Suddenly, the grumbling voice of a resident broke out with anger.
“Where’s my applesauce?” it demanded.
I burst out laughing, as enthusiasm overtook every part of me. My eyes shut closed and my hiccups could be heard even over the start of polite yet thunderous applause. The halt of applause combined with a nudge from my mom’s elbow woke me from my laughter trance.
“You’re up,” my mom told me, in a voice filled with the same pride that set a twinkle in her eyes. I skipped up the steps, suddenly remembering the conversation I had with my first grade class in anticipation of our weekends.
“I’m having my first piano recital!” I boasted, “Everything’s going to be perfect.” I couldn’t wait and was practically basking in the attention I’d be getting already. All of that gradually became reality. I scooted onto the cushioned bench.
The image, when replayed in my mind, still makes me smile. The piano seemed enormous and the stage even bigger, which only made me look smaller. Short for my age, I stood barely thirty-six inches tall. Although I felt like I was at the top of the world right then, my feet dangled off the piano bench and my tiny sandals didn’t yet reach half way down my seat.
By the time my piano teacher finished announcing my name, I was almost halfway through the song. My head nodded with conviction with each note I played. The abnormally long fingers on my tiny hands played mindlessly as music flowed through them, creating what I thought was a difficult rendition of the nursery rhyme. So far, so good…one note left.
Music.
Pride.
Confidence.
And then, nothing.
My eyes dashed to my hands, silently praying for them to continue. The shadow cast on the perfect ivory keys seemed to shrink. My neck whipped around in what felt like a full circle, and to my dismay, more people than I could count were staring blankly back at me, waiting. It gave me a small hiccup, only no sound came out. Nothing could break the silence. The keys beneath my fingers grew colder and colder against my clammy hands. Squirming, my legs tempted me to run off the stage…the butterflies in my stomach certainly had the same idea. The whole try to imagine the whole crowd in their underwear trick wasn’t really getting me anywhere, because my brain (along with my whole body) had frozen. Then, something about the confusion in the air jogged my memory. Finally, a thought:
A week beforehand, I wandered downstairs and whined, ‘Mom, I’m bored.’
‘Why don’t you go practice piano, sweetie?’ she replied without even glancing up from the chicken she was preparing.
‘No. I’d rather watch TV.’

Why don’t you go practice piano, sweetie?
The question scrambled through my head like one of those broken records on the old cartoon TV shows, and I knew that even the butterflies in my stomach were filled with regret.
“Just one more note,” scowled an obnoxious front-row woman, cringing at the painful stillness. Her gray hair and the glasses at the tip of her stuck-up, arrogant nose still pop into my head whenever I am unsure of everything going on. Such a quick moment can trigger such a painful feeling the same way such a little girl can instill such an effective silence.
In an effort to break the deafening silence of the room, I struck a random note, clearly out of place. My eyes filled with tears that tried to follow the butterflies on their way out.


The rest of that day blurred together the way my sheet music looked while I was performing. A mixture of embarrassment, shame, confusion, and a jumble of other negative emotions that were not my friends nor did I know well replaced what I anticipated would be happiness.
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In the end, I blamed the whole thing on my hands.
“It was their fault, not mine,” I argued.
It wasn’t for years of understanding and maturity to build up for me to realize that it really was in my hands, and more so than I ever would have thought at that age. It was the hands’ fault and mine—I got out exactly what I put in.
Because really, when I want something, it is in my hands. It relies on my effort.
And really--who knows if my strife for success would be this strong if I just practiced that one day?





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Charlotte C. said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm
Wow this is really good. It teaches me something... practice makes perfect. Good job I really like it.... Keep writing
 
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