The piano is one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me, and I say it that way on purpose. I don’t mean “my piano” because I grew up and purchased my own instrument; I say “the piano” because I feel that because of the opportunities they have given me, every piano and piano piece in the world is open to me.
It is true that my parents had it pretty easy. I was a child who begged to take lessons. Although I wasn’t always perfect at practicing scales and drills, I loved to play. Even as a teenager, when many of my friends quit music, I loved to sit and play all the beautiful music I could get my hands on and learn for hours at a time. Growing up in a three-bedroom house in a family of eight children, sitting on the piano bench was the only space I had to myself. Even with cartoons on the TV in the other room and my brothers fighting over Lego bricks on the carpet behind me, I could sit and play and escape from everything.
Now that I am older and beginning to think about music lessons for my own children, I realize how much my parents gave to give me the piano. As I think of it, the primary sacrifice they made wasn’t even the money for years of lessons, although that was a substantial investment, or the patience in hearing me practice, though that was a constant in their daily lives. What they gave most was their time.
For years, my mom took me to piano lessons once a week. At first I went to lessons in tow with my two sisters and whatever brothers Mom could bribe, force, or threaten to endure piano lessons as well, but gradually, by the time I was in high school, I was the only one left on the roll sheet from our family, but Mom never asked me to stop. As I look back now, I realize what a sacrifice she was making for me; even my siblings sacrificed. For at least an hour a week, and sometimes more if my teacher lived far away, Mom was away from the rest of them just to take me to lessons.
I don’t think I’ve ever told my mom how much those drives meant to me. I looked forward to those drives—just me and mom. Once a week I got all of her attention. We talked about anything on our minds, and she never acted like it was hard to leave the other seven—and all the activities they wanted to do—just to be with me and to give me the piano.
With this wonderful gift of beauty and love that my parents gave me, when the ward needs someone to fill in playing for the choir or Relief Society or some prelude music, I always say, “Yes.” And amid the thanks I receive, over and over again I try to remember that this isn’t really my talent; it’s my parents’ gift.