Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Mama's Muse

I have always said my Mama was talented and she is. Her minor in college was in music and she can play a piano very well. Unfortunately, this talent is not genetic, as six years of my enduring piano lessons, including five humiliating recitals finally showed her. Lucky, for my brother piano was considered "sissy" at the time so he was spared the agony. A point he reminded me of often as I sat relegated to the piano bench for practice - a fate worse than death in my mind. But I digress. 

As a young girl, often in the late afternoons, Mama would "tune up" on the piano. I never questioned the bourbon and ginger ale on the side table. I just assumed every family enjoyed "high balls" (as my Daddy called them) late in the afternoon (followed by drinks at dinner and then after dinner cocktails, and a night cap before bed.) How was I to know any different? 

But as she sat at the piano, no matter what her state, she could always play. Now perhaps the singing got a little louder. And, her talent was in piano, not necessarily voice. Throughout the house, we would hear the love theme from Dr. Zhivago, hits by Patti Page  (Remember "How Much is that Doggy in the Window"? trust me, I know all the words by heart.), different selections from My Fair Lady, peppered by hymns from the Presbyterian hymnal, with some Eddy Arnold thrown in. It was eclectic to say the least. 

Thinking back on it now, the image in my mind is fairly comical. Obviously, the later in the afternoon, the louder the music got. It was like personal karaoke in the living room without the monitors of rolling lyrics. That was never an issue, she always seemed to know the words. However, getting supper on the table sometimes became an issue. Whatever got on the stove or in the oven prior to the afternoon musical interlude was the menu for the evening. 

The frustrating thing for me was here was this woman who could play this music, under extenuating circumstances (to say the least) with such talent, time and time again. And, the selections she chose from were vast, so it wasn't like she played the same songs over and over again. And, I could not learn to play one simple version of Red River Valley after hours of practice. That was when I started thinking the secret was in the bourbon and ginger ale, after all I could never remember seeing her play without it. 

At fourteen, I realized this was a lost cause. All the practice in the world was not going to help me play the piano. I had learned the secret, my mother's muse. But, even at this early age, I was doomed. I hated bourbon. I always had. Now, if gin would bring on the same results, there was a chance.

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