Thursday, May 26, 2011

My grandmother's piano ~ becoming my piano

My grandmother got this piano in 1936...
It is a Gulbransen, made in Chicago.
She was about 16 when her parents bought this for her.
She was a blessed girl with what seemed to be a fairly charmed life.
She did move a lot, but with in the same area as her dad flipped houses
before they made TV shows about it.
She was an only child, she played the harp and she had a
pet monkey Jerry.
Jerry was her best friend until she went away and spent the summer on Martha's Vineyard.  When she got home he was very mad at her... their relationship never recovered and as her mother explained, Jerry needed to go live with the other monkeys.
That life changed dramatically with the death of her mother, followed by the death of her father before she was 21.  She married my grandfather.  They fell in love in school.  She often said it didn't hurt that he would carry her harp to orchestra practice.  My grandfather was like that, such a good guy.
My grandmother learned after her father passed away that she had been adopted.  She had no one left to ask about this, her parents were gone and there were only a few distant relatives and one crazy cousin.
When I was pregnant for my first she told me how it was for her. No mother to ask questions, no "What to Expect When Your Expecting" and just her crazy cousin who had a bunch of kids and a bunch of crazy nightmare stories about birthing babies.
At that time I hadn't known that my grandmother was adopted. 
I don't think she ever knew that some of us knew.  She was guarded about somethings for her own reasons.
I can only imagine...
I look at this piano, a constant in her life.  I remember how her fingers looked as she played, so soft and graceful.  I loved to watch her play. 
I remember sitting at that piano, I was 5.  I just started Kindergarten, I knew the alphabet
but couldn't read yet.
That was good enough to learn to read music and my lessons began.  Every Tuesday night until 8th grade.  My sister and I went to piano lessons at our grandparents. She was a much better student than I. 
My grandparents would have their afternoon cocktail with some tidbits.  A martini for grandpa and Manhattan for gram. 
We would watch candle pin bowling, have our lesson followed by dinner, usually Hamburger Helper (it makes a great meal, at least that was what I thought when I was a kid) then a little desert, usually coffee ice cream yummy!
I was a rebellious kid and often clashed with convention in my younger and teen years.  My grandparents were all about convention and our relationship was strained.  It wasn't until I started having children and making a life as an adult that I realized how much I am like my grandmother.  I am blessed that she was able to see that before she passed away 7 years ago. 
When we were building our house 12 years ago, she gave me her piano.  I told her I would take it when we were ready for it.  We built our house with the piano in mind, even putting a light in the ceiling in one corner to shine over it. 
I never felt right moving it to my house and I didn't, until now.  It would have left such a big empty space
in their home without it. 
My grandfather passed away in February and the house is being sold, closing this weekend.
It was time.
This week it was moved and has taken it's place in my home and at some point has become mine.
My summer project, restore it to it's natural mahogany beauty.  It had been painted white and antiqued at one time and then painted brown in the 70's.  The piano movers couldn't believe what good condition it is in considering its age.  They gave me some great info on refurbishing it.
I can hear my grandmother say my name when I sit there.  She would say "Kristine" followed by a few tips or pointers, or sometimes she wouldn't say anything and just be there with me.
I miss her so much but I feel so blessed that I will always feel the connection to her through our piano,
the keys her fingers graced and the music we made.


lvankuiken said...

What a wonderful post. Your love for your grandmother came through with every single, eloquent word.

Teresa said...

What a gorgeous piano and what beautiful memories.