This is a story, not just about any old piano, but The Piano.
Let’s start with this:
In typical Filipino family fashion, we had a tradition of going to Lola’s house every Sunday for lunch, merienda, and/or just general family time.
You know how kainan at these places go. They’re never anything fancy but there was always generous amounts of food. So much so, I’m surprised none of us got FAT. (But that’s another story.) We’d all somehow manage to squeeze into a table for 12. Talk, share, stuff ourselves.
I don’t know how it started or who got the idea first, but somewhere along the way, we developed a mini-tradition within the existing one: After we’d eaten, we’d all sit on or around the piano. Cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents. One of us would have her fingers on the keys (usually an aunt or older cousin), while the rest of us would squeeze in as close as we can — sharing the seat or just standing — to keep our eyes on the lyrics sheet, so we could sing along. Nobody cared that we weren’t little musical geniuses or choir member-potential; we were just kids singing happy cheery lalala songs for the grandparents.
We’d sing Beatles songs, mostly. Please Please Me was a favorite of mine before I even knew their names. I pretended I could sing the second voice, but I don’t think any of us knew what we were doing. (Again, the best part was that nobody cared if we did. We just did it.) I learned very early on that Help! was fun to sing while bobbing your head a la Paul McCartney.
I remember this all like a dream, of course, it being so long ago. I’m pretty sure this happened in the years before I turned double-digits, but it left a definite mark on me. I learned, memorized, sang, enjoyed and loved a few Beatles hits then.
We stopped gathering around the piano when we all got a little older. I grew up. We all did.
On my own, I discovered more songs the Fab Four had written. My mom had cassettes of Beatles compilations, and the album that I would later on call the very first Beatles album I loved in its entirety: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Despite being slightly disappointed to discover the tapes were dirty and the audio muffled, I went ahead and played them on my big old boom box. And I played them over and over and over and over again. I played them until we had to buy CDs because the tape just wouldn’t work anymore.
All this, and much much more, from those Sundays we’d hang around the piano singing old songs.
So you see, that piano essentially introduced me to my biggest musical influence, the guys who sing the songs I need to get a little crazy and stay sane at the same time. It opened the doors to the Beatlemania and the decades I missed. Then from John, Paul, George & Ringo I went on to discover the rest of the musical world. That piano, that inanimate object, is responsible for my love for The Beatles and, as importantly, music as a whole. I could go on and on about the effect this piano had and still has on me, but I’m sure by now you see what I’m getting at. As strange as this may sound to you, I feel like I owe that Piano. It was the start of it all.
I tell this story now because that Piano is something I have to say goodbye to now.
Excuse the cliche, but I guess the only thing constant in life is change. And things are changing. Due to certain circumstances, and the general realness of reality, The Piano may have to go to someone else soon. Our entire family has to let this piano — all the notes played on it, (including the ones I tried and failed to play), all the songs sung with it, all the memories made around it — go, and it’ll be in the hands of other, unfamiliar people.
I called my mom up the night after I found out about this sad situation. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that she shared my sentiments; she’s had far more years with the piano than I. (She had her piano lessons on those keys.) We said good night eventually, hung up.
I went outside to get some air and just… thought about everything I wrote now. I surprised myself then — I found myself crying. Over a piano. I couldn’t believe I was crying over a PIANO. But I was. I did. And I knew I wasn’t faking it. I cried that night, a good, clean, I-can’t-stop-the-tears-from-flowing honest kind of cry.
For The Piano, I have but these few words, including a Thank You, tears, and a whole lot of memories. This is my way of saying goodbye… Or perhaps, also my way of praying that things change back and we get to keep the piano after all.