Today I was working while listening to my “Chill Vibes” Pandora station, and one of my favorite songs came on.
While I love the piece, what I love more are the memories.
I’ve heard this dozens of times over the years, but today was different. As soon as I heard it I decided to write about it tonight. Ironically, on my Dad’s birthday. Ironic because, well, I’d decided to write about it well before I realized today was the 13th (his birthday).
I remember sitting in our dining room in Columbus Ohio. We had this old beige-colored wooden piano, which I later was gifted, and years later I gifted to someone else. I’m pretty sure it came from my mom’s side of the family, and was her mothers. There was this matching bench with a swing-top lid stuffed with sheet music, a few pages of which were always spilling out.
Some evenings, after dinner, we would sit around the dining room table while my Dad sat at the piano. Our dining room table was a “table on a table” which makes me laugh as I remember it. Growing up we had this small table that all seven of us would crowd around for dinners (or “supper” as my Mom called it).
One day my dad saw a much bigger tabletop; either someone was throwing it away curbside or we bought it at this old used furniture store downtown called “Gene’s Used Furniture.” I loved going to that store, it smelled of old oiled wood furniture and metal file cabinets. The guy Gene was this super salt-of-the-earth dude, of which there are many people like that in Ohio. One of the many things I love–and miss–about home.
Out of prudence–and frugality–rather than buy a base and legs for the newfound table, instead our Dad just glued the much larger table onto the top of our existing table. Voila! We had a new table!
My Dad would be on the piano bench, and he’d start playing a few notes. One sister was usually sitting in front of the heater duct against the wall, and another would often be wrapped up with a blanker petting our Golden Retriever named Schroeder, whose tail would keep thumping the ground as she laid there signaling her happiness. And the rest of us were seated around the “table on the table.”
And after a few warm up notes, suddenly, it was magic. My dad would start playing Claire de Lune. There would be a few missed notes along the way, and a couple of do-overs, but to me it was like we were in this symphonic concert hall from this big device that I couldn’t get to do or play anything that suddenly was handled in a way that enveloped the room in this lovely soothing drip of serenity–which was a rarity in a house with five kids.
And, wow, as I write this it’s amazingly emotional to me. About how much I loved those moments. How simple it was. How much I valued my family growing up, though hardly in ways that any of my sisters or family would probably ever realize at the time (or perhaps, even since).
Then, at the end, my mom would usually come over and place her hand on the back of my dad and rub his shoulder and give him a hug and say something like “Richard, that was so beautiful! You are so talented!” Which is another memory that I love, seeing my mom as such an encourager and always so positive. Having reflected on it, I think that’s one of the best gifts a wife can give her husband–encouragement and respect. She gave a lot of both.
And then, as quickly as it began, it was over.
And the noise would start. I’d probably be heckling and teasing my sisters and everyone would start stirring while the chaos of a family of seven people would resume.
But I don’t remember that as much.
No, what I remember is sitting in serenity in an old house in Columbus Ohio, with an amazing (yet very imperfect) family and the magic of Claire de Lune filling the air with an imperfect family. And every single time I hear this song, it’s like this incredible transport back 30 years to a moment I’ll always adore.
Happy Birthday, Dad.