Flipping through old photographs is how we summon memories most of the time. That’s what I was doing in the garage today, when I had the strong feeling that I needed to get rid of some of these dusty old remnants of a life that seems long gone.
When I moved to Florida from New Jersey, I was filled with reminiscence. I moved into the house my parents built back in 1978, just a year before I met and fell in love with Gene. Everywhere here in the Florida home there are memories, but they are not mine; they belong to my mom and dad, John and Marie. I was just an occasional visitor when they lived their lives here together in “Paradise.”
Today, the photo above, which I discovered in the pile buried in a container in the garage, is a memory of Dad that reaches back in time to my days on 135 Lake Street in Jersey City and the piano playing that was so very important to Dad, but mostly a chore to me. Strange as it may seem, when I thought about how to complete furnishing the Florida living room, the idea of a “piano” was undeniable. I longed for a second chance at that skill. I wondered if it would still be a chore, or if somehow deep down inside of me there was really some desire to play, some latent talent, some subconscious ability, that if awakened, would bring me peace.
Last fall, after much of the living room renovation was complete, I shopped for a piano. After feeling pushed and shoved this way and that by piano dealers in Venice and Sarasota, I met Anthony Duffy at Bayfront Music. Anthony has an amazing talent. He played each piano in his showroom so beautifully, and I could tell he was dedicated to sharing his passion with others through his store. With his guidance, I selected a Kawai acoustic upright piano in a beautiful walnut finish that was a perfect complement to the new wood-grain tile I had installed in the living room. And the sound was melodic and true.
I took lessons at the store with a purpose. I wanted to re-learn the favorite pieces I mastered in my youth. One of those was also my dad’s favorite, “Till There Was You,” a tune from the musical, also made into a movie, The Music Man. Looking at the photo now, I recall so clearly, like it was yesterday, how Dad sang while I played. The affection he showed me in these times was a rare treat — when I played the song without mistakes, that is. Now, when I play it each night, I never tire of it. The song brings me back. It brings Dad back. That brings me peace.
In case you’ve forgotten how it goes, Shirley Jones belts out this tune in a clip from the movie: https://youtu.be/JLDsLeVxOaU
And did you know that the Beatles recorded the song too? Listen: https://youtu.be/vJaap5XwiPA
And last, but not least, here is a sample of my humble performance:
Wish I could sing!