Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bwing, Bwing, Bwing

I'm thinking about my sister almost every day this month.  It's because of a commercial that runs a few times a day.  Probably only California people see it.  There is an old man, looking lonely and downcast, walking through the streets at night.  He enters an apartment building and slowly trudges up to his apartment.  When he gets there, he finds an envelope with a big red ribbon attached to his door.  Turns out it's a few "scratchers" from the lottery, given to him by his neighbor across the hall (who is watching through the peephole in her door). He gives a smile and walks inside his apartment, standing a little straighter, and with a little smile on his face.  

The commercial is accompanied by a recording of Debussy's "Clair de Lune."  My grandmother loved that piece.  I didn't find out until just a few years ago that she had been a pianist and quit cold turkey one day when she realized she was always the piano player at all of the parties she attended and never got a chance to "party."  She never touched the piano again and once offered to pay me $100 if I ever learned to play "Clair de Lune" so I could play it whenever she wanted to hear it. But, alas, it was way above my skill level (for one thing, my child's hands didn't stretch that far!!).

My father learned to play it (I don't think he got $100 for doing so), though he was a jazz pianist and this was the only classical piece he ever played.  I don't know how often he played it, but enough that I know the piece very well.  

In the commercial I watched, the background music goes up to the part where there are three trills.

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Every time my father played "Clair de Lune," Karen would stand by the piano (she must have been fairly young at the time) and say "bwing! bwing! bwing!" on each of the trills.  I have never ever been able to hear that piece played without thinking of her when they get to the bwing-bwing-bwing part.   Interestingly, my mother, who has forgotten so much of her life, also remembers Karen doing that.  She giggled about it with me when I told her about the commercial.   We talked about what Karen would be like today, if she hadn't been murdered in 1971.

I stopped murdering the piano after two years of lessons, two years of dreading my weekly hour with Sister Mary Victor, of the famous ruler, which would land on your wrist or fingers if you didn't hold them right.  My father never forgave me for not living out his dream and to his dying day he talked about the money he "wasted" on my piano lessons. 

He somehow never remembered that he, too, had quit formal piano lessons and had taught himself to play "by ear." 

I never got over the guilt of having disappointed him.  And I never got over feeling sad that in all of the years that we were on this earth together, I don't remember anything that I ever did that made him proud.
But I remember how much he loved to hear Karen say "bwing, bwing, bwing."

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