“The best things in life aren’t things.”
“Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.”
“You can’t take it with you.”
But you can leave it behind.
Since my mother’s death we’ve taken great comfort in her things, her possessions, objects she loved and wanted to share with us. There’s been no arguing among my siblings about who gets what and absolutely no talk of money. But slowly, over the last several months we’ve claimed objects that bring us peace.
For my brother, it was the strawberry plates on which my mother served breakfast to he and his children in the rough early years after his divorce. For my sister it was the dining room table where she and mom played games with the kids and created elaborate Halloween costumes. For all of the girls in the family, bits and pieces of mom’s jewelry make us feel like she is with us.
I’ve received more than most. I use her iPhone, I’m driving her car (an old Audi wagon that I adore) and last fall I packed her brown plates and glasses between towels for the transfer from her kitchen to mine. Even though my mother had specifically told me to take them, I felt strange removing the platters and bowls from her shelves.
“I feel like I should be asking permission.” I lamented to my brother.
“Well mom’s not here to give it.” he insisted, “But I know she wants you to have them. C’mon, I’ll help you carry them to the car.”
This week, I brought home her piano.
It’s a grand and it’s gorgeous and when you open the lid it is LOUD.
Best of all it reminds me of my mother.
She wasn’t a great pianist. Neither her childhood nor mine were conducive to lessons. But when her life calmed down a bit in her fifties she found a teacher and began to improve her skills. Our old family piano– the yellow $100 garage sale upright with butterflies painted across the front– didn’t have working pedals and her teacher insisted on a better model.
My mother shopped around and ran her fingers across many a keyboard, “I shouldn’t buy a grand until I’m good enough to deserve it.” she lamented.
But the tone of a grand piano lured and enticed her until she decided to buy the piano and become the pianist she dreamt of. And that is one of the things I love about my mother, she was constantly learning, finding ways to improve. The bench was filled with her music books and a little notebook with lesson assignments and practice charts.
Even simple scales sounded majestic on her gorgeous instrument and as daily practice honed her skills she filled the house with hymns and classics and old love songs.
No one at my house is a great pianist either. We’ve been fine with our old upright for years now. Ben and Stefan can play; only Hans takes lessons. But the allure of the grand piano draws everyone in and in the few days we’ve had it I’ve caught every child at the keys. The sound is so rich and lush and beautiful. And with it in the house, each of us will grow and improve and become.
And now we have an extra piano. It needs a home where it will be loved and played and adored. We don’t want to sell it; we just want someone to enjoy it. Let me know if that’s you (edited to add: it looks like I have two good possibilities for a new home for the piano– I’ll let you know if those fall through).
“God loves material things. He made them!” C. S. Lewis