On Mothers' Day: A Musical Recollection
When I was about seven years old, the lady who would become my fourth grade teacher decided to offer piano lessons. A few of us took her up on her offer. The one difficulty was that not a single one of us had a piano, nor as children of the working class any likelihood of owning one. Thus, we were issued wooden keyboards to use for practice, a singularly uninspiring exercise.
After a bit, I lost interest. So one day, when my mother questioned me, I replied that I wasn't taking lessons anymore. In response to her quizzical look, I told her not to worry that I had spoken to the teacher. I had told her that I wasn't taking lessons anymore because my parents couldn't afford a piano.The next thing I knew, my parents trotted me down to Abraham & Strauss on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, a store we never frequented as it was above our touch. Sure enough, we left as the proud owners of a Hammond piano. Yes, they used to make pianos, too.
It was beautiful, my gleaming new piano. I was in transports. I guess because the thing cost over seven hundred 1960's dollars, they felt I should have more serious instruction and they hired a friend of a friend.This worthy young woman had graduated from a prestigious music school in Cuba and was a purist. The bulk of my instruction consisted of scales, arpeggios, and other exercises. I was not allowed to play popular music unless it was in its original form. It was- to say the very least- tedious.
In order to lighten the mood and get some enjoyment out of their substantial investment, they wrote to relatives who would send pieces of sheet music in their letters from Cuba. In the early days, about the only one I had any chance of mastering was a song entitled "Madrecita" by Osvaldo Farrés. Day in and day out for who knows how long I dutifully and grudgingly practiced this one, until my mother used to say that the flower the child carried in his heart was a stick.
In any case, I thought I would share the words, since I am scanner challenged.
Madrecita del alma querida
en mi pecho yo llevo una flor
no te importe el color que ella tenga
porque al fin tu eres madre una flor.
Tu cariño es mi bien, madrecita
en mi vida tu has sido y seras
el refugio de todas mis penas
y, la cuna de tu amor y verdad.
Aunque amores yo tenga en la vida
que me llenen de felicidad,
como el tuyo hamas madre mia,
como el tuyo no habre de encontrar.
Repeat first stanza.
Anyway, the upshot of the whole story is that despite bribery, bullying, pleading and railing, I was never a particularly inspired piano student. I can still remember Mom threatening to bury me in that piano. In the end, I took about five years of lessons before they gave up. I still have the piano which I take with me every time I move, the emblem of my shame. Still, I can play a mean "Lara's Theme, " when I play at all, that is.