Dr. Phil would have been so proud

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2009

Snowflakes had actually begun to fall, even though it wasn’t quite sticking to the ground too well, something that hadn’t happened in Greenville since I was eight years old. The temperature was dropping quickly, and here came Daddy with a couple of other men trying to maneuver this monstrous, antiquated upright piano into our home.

“What is Daddy doing?” I asked Mama, in a high-pitched voice of confusion and anger.

The reason I say anger is because I knew the answer already—however, even though I could be upset about something toward my parents while I was growing up, I knew better than to be disrespectful toward them.

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After all, I liked my front teeth.

“Your Daddy found you a piano,” Mama said in her sweetest, most syrupy-encouraging voice ever. Obviously, they had double-teamed me behind my back.

I began taking piano lessons when I was eight; my grandmother fussed at me when I didn’t practice because then I couldn’t play the new Stamps Baxter gospel songs that had just come out for the Butler County Saturday night singers. It was a lot of pressure for a child, but that was just the way it was.

Every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 4:30 p.m., Daddy dropped me off at Mrs. Dorothy Parrish’s home in Greenville for my piano lessons.

“Keep your hands on the keys, Regina,” she’d tell me over and over.

Mrs. Parrish gave piano lessons to several of my friends, too; I was always fascinated with the front foyer and living room of her home, a room filled to the brim with pictures, knick-knacks, and treasures from her life, a life that had been filled with music and family.

But this was not a day to be trifling with my ambiguity over continuing my piano lessons.

You see, I, as the baby sister of three older brothers, had found another love – softball – and I wanted to be outside as much as possible so I could play. I was the first baseman for Rheem Manufacturing, and we played during the summer months with the Greenville Parks and Recreation leagues. Later, I would switch to short stop and even some pitching and be voted as our All-Star team captain during the last year I was eligible to play. We never won any championships, but it all meant the world to me at that age.

And now, my Daddy was bringing in this tall, brown monster into our home—a constant reminder that I had to sit inside for a certain number of hours every day.

I ran and hid behind my bed and cried like any mature 12-year-old. It took hours to get the thing into the house, and Daddy actually had to tear the door frames off the living room entranceway to get the piano into the room. Our home was built in 1948, and I guess no one ever figured the doorways needed to be a certain width.

“Well, there’s one thing about it—if this house ever catches on fire, that thing’s going to burn up with it ‘cause we’ll never get it out of here,” he said, laughing.

I was crying because I wanted that piano to disappear, and here comes Mama.

“I told you I didn’t want a piano! I told you not to get me one!” I wailed as angrily yet as respectfully as possible. After all, these were desperate times.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” Mama asked in the sweetest voice. “The piano is for me; it’s not for you.”

My head popped up in complete surprise.

I had obviously not learned all the tricks of parent psychology by the age of 12.

“It’s for you? You don’t play the piano.”

“I’ve been telling you for years how I wanted to learn to play, and I’m going to start taking lessons. So you see, the piano is for me, not you.”

How could they? I was the musician in the house. This was treason.

And sure enough, after what seemed like hours of hiding behind the bed, crying, yet straining to hear what was going on, it was all over. The men were gone, the front door was closed to the outside cold, and my mama began plink-plinking on that old upright.

What is that? Oh, good grief, that sounds horrible. I can at least go show her where the right keys are.

And she sat with me quietly as I impatiently tried to show her a thing or two of the basics.

After awhile, Mama had to get up and start supper, and the next thing I know, I’m left sitting there alone pouring over our newest member of the family household, fascinated.

Hoodwinked. Tricked. Outsmarted. Dr. Phil would have been so proud of them.

After I graduated from college and began teaching, the first thing I bought was a brand new Kawai console. It weighs a ton, but I’ve dragged it from pillar to post every time I’ve moved.

As for the old upright piano at my parents’ house, it’s still there.

And looking back, I wouldn’t have had things any other way.