Approximately 21 years ago, I learned to play “Fur Elise,” the well-known Beethoven piece. I know this is true because my piano teacher would date-stamp each piece I learned and the yellowed copy bears the date of September 1986. During a laughter-filled Chinese takeout dinner with my mom and brother, I was suddenly struck by the urge to play. Never mind that my poor upright Baldwin has been woefully out of tune for years and that the only keyboarding my fingers do these days is at work or the occasional blog/MySpace updates when I visit Mom’s. I left the dinner table before they did, brought out the old blue binder full of plastic sheet protectors, and began to play.
Playing the piano was something I loved to do. I loved the emotional expression. Like writing or dancing, it allowed me to explore emotions without being overwhelmed by them. I find it interesting that I stopped playing the piano when I was about fifteen, when my teenage depression was at its most potent. As with dance, I abandoned this pastime but never really felt interested in it again. Until today.
I played a few bars of the “Moonlight Sonata.” This was the piece I was practicing when I stopped my lessons. I felt silly at not recognizing notes or keys. I did much better with the “Waves of the Danube,” one of my signature pieces I often performed at recitals or for eager relatives and family friends. I played a little of “The Beautiful Blue Danube” and the first page of “Fur Elise.” I concluded my exercise with some bars of “Heart and Soul.” Overall, the piano sounds lousy and my fingers are very clumsy, but it felt great to play again. I told my mom that I’m going to hire movers to take the piano to my house so it can be tuned.
What better way to rediscover myself than to rediscover something I loved and something in which I excelled.