It went down like this:
I needed a place to store my bicycle for the winter, other than my front hallway of my apartment. I have always been friendly with my building manager (we’re both from Saskatchewan, so how could we not be friendly with each other?!) and had written her an email asking if there was perhaps a safe place somewhere in the building where I could store it until spring.
When I was paying my rent the other day she said it was no problem, to bring her the bike and she would store it in a safe and cozy place for the winter. (Sorry to disappoint my friends in the cycling community, but I just can’t face the thought of winter cycling. God, I hate the winter, it’s only November and I’m fed up with it already but I digress.)
So I brought the bike down and as I was handing it off to her, she asked me if I knew of anyone who was a good piano teacher. She has a seven year old daughter who has expressed a desire to take lessons.
“I know lots of people who could teach her,” I said.
As I said this, I wasn’t letting on that I myself had once taught a lot of piano lessons in a different place, in a different life time. I put myself through the first few years of university teaching piano lessons at the old Arcade Music Studios in Regina. (The biggest claim to fame about that place is that Jack Semple taught guitar lessons down the hall from me. We also went to high school together. But more on Jack another time.) But I wasn’t ready to admit this at this particular time.
“I can ask around for you, if you like,” I said.
“Is it expensive?” she asked.
“It is a little,” I said. You see for some of us, thirty or forty dollars a week is a lot. My daughter was lucky in this, in that my mother bless her soul always paid for her piano lessons, otherwise she might never have had them. For some of us, this is a prohibitive amount.
“Didn’t I read somewhere that you used to play the piano?” she asked, searching, reaching.
“Yes I did,” I said, “But that was a long time ago.”
She was wearing an oversized hat and she looked at me in the eye and removed the hat to reveal a bald head that could only mean one thing.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Since June,” she said, indicating with her hand her chest area. “It’s just been hard, I had to quit work and it’s just been so hard . . . .”
There was, as we say in the theatre, a lengthy pause. We teared up a little at the stupid injustice of it, the gross unfairness of it, the shitty rotten timing of it all.
“You know,” I said. “I actually have a keyboard up in my apartment. I could probably get her started. It’s been a while, but it’s just like riding a bike, really. If she’d be comfortable and you’re ok with it, I could teach her.”
“Will you give me some kind of deal?” she asked.
“There’s no better deal than free,” I said.
And it’s not just the money, of course. It’s the convenience of the fact I’m right upstairs, they don’t have to drive for an hour through a blizzard to get to the lesson and then back home again – one less thing for mom who already has enough on her mind to worry about.
And so this morning after a break of thirty-five years or so, I will be offering a piano lesson to the seven year old daughter of my building manager. I used to do it for money, but now it’s about something else, something for more important than money.
Also this morning, when I went out for the morning coffee, the wonderful art work shown above was waiting for me outside my door. Obviously, you can’t put a price on such things . . .
Thanks for reading. I leave you with a charming film clip of Canada’s greatest and certainly most eccentric pianist, the late Glen Gould.
Thanks for reading . . .