This post should be about age eleven, but I’m breaking the rules of the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge. It turns out that the year after I turned ten (it’s my eleventh year, after all, so maybe that counts for something) was a big one in terms of memorable events. The ice storm. My grandfather’s death. But it was also the solo recital year, and I have to write about that.
First, a little music history: I had started piano lessons the summer before I turned six with a college student who had allowed me to “play by the numbers.” When my real teacher, Miss Vera, took me on in the fall, I didn’t know one note from another, so she started over. If you’ve been reading these posts, you know about the piano Santa brought. Daddy played some by ear, and I was picking out tunes before I started lessons. In that house, we loved music! There were the radio shows my parents listened to, but they didn’t own a record player until later. By the time I was seven or eight, I did. Among my favorite records–all 78s–were Peter and the Wolf and Rusty in Orchestraville (a narrative that introduced all the instruments of the orchestra). There were others, I’m sure. I took to the piano and I had a good ear, which helps account for “learning ” music without being able to read it.
But I progressed. For my very first piano recital, my mother made a dress: pale blue organdy with triangles of ruffles on the skirt and a band of ruffles across the shoulders. At the point of each of those ruffled inserts on the skirt was a rosette of tiny organdy rosebuds tied with narrow satin ribbon, like nosegays, all made by hand. I remember watching Mother make them; those rosebuds involved a tedious process of rolling the edges of the fabric between her fingers. What a labor of love that dress was, and how I wish she hadn’t let someone borrow it! We never got it back.
The ruffles around the neck are obvious in the photo, and if you look carefully, you can see the top of the ruffles on the skirt.
When I was ten (going on eleven by a few days), I gave a solo recital. That’s right. All by myself. An older boy played a duet with me (a boy who was teased unmercifully for his talent and his “sissy” ways), and Miss Vera herself played second piano on a rousing arrangement of “Turkey in the Straw.” I was a hit, and I would continue piano lessons through the ninth grade. This recital dress was pale pink, by the way. And those are tiny artificial flowers sewn on by hand. My mother didn’t consider herself to be creative, but I believe she was an artist.
What music do you remember? Did you learn to play an instrument? Did you love it or hate it?