From Beethoven’s moonlight sonata to Chopin’s nocturnes, beautiful melodies run through the keyboard of the piano in my family room, turning my home into a music paradise. I sat on the rocking chair next to the piano watching and listening to my children playing, deeply immersed in it. I allowed the moonlight rivers to flow through my heart and enjoyed the serenity tones that comforted my soul. I resonated with the turbulent themes revealing the struggles on a human journey and was inspired by the passionate flows to strive and achieve.
But piano melodies have gradually disappeared as my children grew up and were busy pursuing their academic careers. My favorite songs slipped out of their music album, and their beautiful hands no longer touched the piano keyboard. The most cherished moments were replaced by unbearable silence and emptiness. Sitting on the same rocking chair, I would stare at the abandoned piano for minutes on end, grieving for its death and mourning its short life.
Playing the piano was my childhood dreams. But growing-up at the time when food was a daily struggle, a music instrument like a piano was an extremely privileged commodity beyond the reach of a middle-class family in China. After immigrating to Canada, I, like many parents, picked up the pieces of our childhood dreams, transferring my unfulfilling ambitions to my two children and taking them on a decade long journey to become accomplished pianists.
In retrospect, that journey involved blood, sweat, and tears. Starting to learn piano from the age of 5, they never allowed the stormy weathers as excuses for skipping the classes, nor the heavy school workload to become the reasons for suspending practices. Setbacks and failures – from a faltering performance at music test to losing a championship in competitions– were the norm, and they’ve learned to accept them and even turn them into motives to adapt and grow. Of course, their success and achievements were the testaments that their efforts had been paid off.
Venetian Boat Song was my daughter’s debut at Kiwanis contest. Her emotional enriched and flawless performance took the audiences on a journey down the Venice Canal, escaping to the sometimes rocking and sometimes tranquil wild river. As she held her golden trophy cup on the stage, her teacher and I hugged each other in tears.
Tears were streaming down my face when my son walked out the ARCT exam room in sweat-soaked shirt, after hours of performance in front of five RCM examiners. When his certificate – marking the pinnacle of achievement of extra curriculum -- came in, his excitement was beyond expression. Eventually, he managed to let out his emotions by flying his hands at the piano until late at night.
But with the silences soaring in the piano room today, I started to put my fingers on the keyboard, picking up their piano books buried under dust – from formula patterns to study albums to repertoires – and trying to follow their piano learning paths. The reviving of the piano sound has brought me tremendous joy and happiness. Bit by bit, I’ve learned to play songs one after another--abet still the simplest ones in their eyes.
Hearing me playing, both my kids have jumped on board, taking me as their first student and falling over each other with offering me piano lessons. “Your fingering was wrong, mom, and your hands were too tight and stressed!” “Relax on your left hand!” advised my son. My daughter, who has the talent of “perfect pitch” could figure out my every single wrong note instantly and would rush downstairs from her bathroom to shout in my ear. “It is F, not F#!”
Gradually, broken notes turned into beautiful pieces, leaving me in awe of my achievements.
“Yes! You can pass that song!”
“Very well played! Quite impressive!!!”
I am delighted and thrilled -- for breaking the phycological barrier that it is too late for people like me to start learning piano.
As a gesture of encouragement, one of them would sit down with me together in front of the piano, playing four hands together.
That was the most exciting moments that any parent could have ever dreamed of!
I was happy for the newfound paths to fill the emptiness in my life but more grateful for the enhanced emotional bonds with my children as we embark on a musical journey together. At the time when language and cultural barriers widen the generation gaps among immigrant families, this common music interest seems more valuable to us than ever.
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