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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why Am I Afraid Of You?

Lessons Learned

Sealed With A Kiss

She was a concert pianist. Renowned. Revered. Her praises were highly heralded among all who boasted of membership in the local musical intelligentsia.  I was six and had been playing songs from the radio on the piano by ear since I was three. The look, the sound, the feel of our piano sent ripples of unexplainable joy through my soul from the moment it arrived at our home. I couldn’t get enough of it.  Music was beyond magical to me. She was the best. Seemed a match. Lessons began. Her persona and flaming red hair filled the piano lesson room and would have certainly intimidated this young student had my eyes fixed on her, but they didn’t. Her piano was spectacular, and its black lacquer elegance was something I had never seen; it completely captivated me. Saturday morning lessons continued with a growing sick-feeling in my six year old tummy because she was mean. If I played an incorrect note, she slapped my hands off the keys and shouted to begin again. If she heard one of my fingernails click on the keys, she would take me roughly by the hand to her bathroom, where she’d clip all of my nails. She impatiently and icily barked and snapped and slapped and clipped week after week, but how was I to know that wasn’t the appropriate manner in which to teach and learn piano playing? I didn’t know much at six, but I knew I longed to play the piano. Her too red, too much lipstick, which blaringly accentuated the non-encouraging words which shot out of her mouth like spit, wound up on my cheek at the culmination of each lesson as she seemed to like to seal each lesson with a big fat kiss. There, take that home as a token of my love and devotion. Yuck. Eventually I learned that if I brought my sweet grandma to my lessons, Meanie turned kind; what a performer! Grandma was thrilled to come along and I was thrilled to have her. Grandma, with her bag of tatting and gentle, happy spirit, attended granddaughter’s piano lessons with pride and enthusiasm never minding that she was hearing the same eight note songs over and over and over again; her smile never faded.  Grandma was the best, most encouraging audience, and her unassuming presence reigned in the meanie who thought she was a teacher.  Lessons with her didn’t last too long as her true colors manifested themselves at the first recital when her not-so-subtle tactics of humiliation, fear, and harshness appeared for those with eyes to see.  Not all with great skill deserve the privilege of teaching. Young minds, full of curiosity and hope, are ever so willing to trust the hand of the one who offers to help them learn. In offering that hand, one must be absolutely certain that one has fully recognized the gravity of receiving that precious trust from a child. Teaching bears responsibility as no other.