Going into a piano store is like walking on the red carpet with your underwear on. The gleaming models pose in black and white, their price tags fluttering back and forth so you only see the dollar sign and miss the five digit number. There you are with your longing exposed but unworthy to be a legitimate customer. That is exactly how I felt the day I went into the store, at the mall, with my beloved aunt. Coming from a very conservative background, she often showed an adventuresome, reckless side. She beckoned me to flirt with the Steinway. I sat ever so lightly upon the black cushioned bench and stroked the keys. The sound cascaded out of the belly answering my touch, beckoning for more questions.
"I am going to own a grand piano one day!" I declared boldly.
"What are you waiting for?" She propped her round elbows on the lid and smiling, rested her chin in her hands.
"I don't have any money set aside for that luxury." I stood up and dismissed the idea. She surprised me by opening her purse and handing me a one hundred dollar bill. The revealed cash was not unnoticed by the salesman who made his way over to us to render his assistance.
"Here is the down payment." She laid the bill in my hand and pointed me in the direction of other pianos. "Go find the one you want."
I did not buy a piano that day. I had five children at home, a badly running station wagon, and only a handfull of piano students. This idea would find no support at home. I kept the hundred in my sock drawer as a down payment on a wish.
My husband did not respond the way I thought he would when I told of my venture. He sat down with me to make a business plan. How many students would I need to add to make the monthly payment? The harder question was how would we fit a baby grand in the living room? We lived in an old, four bedroom, one bathroom home, with five growing children, two of them just emerging as teenagers.
Still feeling ridiculous, the two of us visited another showroom. I played a fifty thousand Chickering and thought Chopin was whispering to me.
I think I danced with every piano in the store and finally a shiny, black Yamaha yielded to my need. It was bright without being brassy, resonant without muddiness, and just firm enough to make me decisive. There were others that looked the same but this one sang with my voice.
I needed five additional students to make the payment; I got ten. My children resented giving up the lounging area in front of the television; one of them learned to play like an angel.
The piano was paid off in five years and sixteen years later all my students have played on an instrument that responds to the novice and the master.
Some risks in life just look like a raging river to cross, but end up being a puny puddle viewed from the other side.