music lessons

Monthly Wrap: Killing the Piano

by Susan Henderson on August 7, 2009

This month, we talked about the instruments we played when we were kids. Mostly I played imaginary instruments, playing as fast and impressively as the masters. In real life, I was impatient with the learning curve, but I do have a story for you about me and the piano.

The high point of my piano playing was Humpty Dumpty, a humiliating song to lay on a girl who’d rather play Rachmaninoff. But even Humpty Dumpty didn’t come easily. I didn’t like to practice. And sometimes I walked up the street to my piano teacher’s house and never even rang the bell. I just stood there, considering, and then walked back home the long way.

I don’t know what upset me so much about her sitting beside me on the bench, her gnarled fingers on the keys, singing the correct notes as I played the wrong ones. Maybe I have issues with inadequacy. Failure. People telling me what to do. People sitting too close.

I’ve never been the kind of person to fly into a rage. I’m quieter than that. So one day, I sat at the piano with my father’s wrench and quietly snipped a piece of ivory off of every key. In order: low notes to high notes. Every one. And then, without a word, I swept the pieces into my hand and closed the lid. Never told a soul.

I’m not sure what that says about the kind of child I was, but I suspect it says something.

Shortly after Mr. Henderson and I got married, my parents surprised me by sending us the piano. It was an expensive shipment, very generous, but it came into the house like a ghost and made me avoid the room we’d put it in.

This is how much my husband loves me. That year for my birthday, I came home and found that he’d magically removed the piano from the house, even while wearing a sling for a dislocated shoulder, and replaced the piano with a tank filled with frogs.

Best birthday present ever!


What did I read this month? Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez (editors), WRITER’S WORKSHOP IN A BOOK: THE SQUAW VALLEY COMMUNITY OF WRITERS ON THE ART OF FICTION (Gave me new writing heroes like Anne Lamott, Mark Childress, and Lynn Freed); Jennifer McMahon, PROMISE NOT TO TELL (The wickedness and heartbreak of young girls; LOVED it!); and the book for next month’s interview.

Thanks to my August guest, Naseem Rakha, and to all of you who played here. And thanks to those who linked to LitPark: Simply Wait, In Her Own Write, Confessions of a Hermit Crab, Publishers Weekly, The Writer’s (Inner) Journey, BackspaceMarilyn Peake, Yearning 4d Sky, Jim Hanas, Blanquis26, Recommended ReadingBook Bird Dog, Kirk Farber Fiction, Laurel Snyder, Ashlyn Harper, Dynamic Josh, kmwss2c, Charles Palmer, AS King, Joanne Levy, Robin Slick, Maureen McGowan, ktsetsi, Backword Books, Emrson Creighton, David Habbinphalpern, i follow the night, lancerey, Brigita09, Eileen Rita, sarzee, TNB Tweets, Carmelo Valone, Laura Benedict, Despi Doodle, Georgia McBride, Maria Schneider, Jason Boog, HarperPerennial, Lori Oliva, Spaced Lawyer, Kimberly Wetherell, Jamie Ford, KayinCatEyes, BukowskiD, Laura Benedict, Regina Marler, Mike Gackler, My Feng Shui Life, Emrson Creighton, Rumbly in my Tumbly, Upstate Girl, Editor Unleased, and Lee Crase’s Vagabond Lit. I appreciate those links!