A piano played by a president…or “You’re not my Daddy anymore!”

January 31, 2008 at 7:17 am | Posted in Being a Dad, Musings | Leave a comment
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We have a piano in the front room of our house that used to belong to the Francestown Academy. The Academy has been out of business for awhile now, but in its day, it was pretty impressive. It’s alumnae included a couple of US Senators, state Supreme Court Justices, a US Supreme Court Justice and Secretary of the Navy (Levi Woodbury), Eben Locke, “whose father fired the first gun of the Revolution,” and perhaps most famous, Franklin Pierce, US Senator and PRESIDENT of the United States.

We bought this piano at The Francestown Labor Day Festival for $50 (truth is, the $50 was more of a donation. I’m guessing the Francestown Historical Society would have paid us to get the thing off the stage – which I did, with three of my strongest friends, a piano jack, a couple of 2×8’s and a lot of luck). After it’s tenure with the Academy, our piano had played for many, many years, the second Saturday of each month in the Francestown Contra Dance – but, it had fallen out of tune, and they couldn’t seem to get it back in. We lucked onto the scene, and for a mere $50, and a few months of visits to the chiropractor, it was ours.


Franklin Pierce Played Here…

Actually, though, when I was driving home from work that Tuesday, I wasn’t thinking about the piano, the academy, or even US presidents. I was thinking about the fact that it was about 30 degrees in January, the sun was shining and it would be a perfect day to polish up our sled track in the back yard – we might finally get the luge track I’d been hoping for. Abe was at a friend’s house, Gus would probably be napping, and Isabel loves to sled. I walked in the door as Tonya was walking out, “I have to go get Abe, make sure you practice piano with Isabel…”

Suddenly that piano loomed large, blocking out sun and fun and sledding…”let’s go Isabel, let’s get this done, I want to get outside.” There were three songs – 48 notes, total (when you’re practicing with a beginning pianist, you have time to count). The first two went beautifully…the first half of the third song, “Legato Skips,” was great, but then…but then…the last eight notes, Isabel stalled. Lot’s of, “Come on, honey, you can do it…” “I can’t, I can’t…” ensued. Finally, I said, let’s just stop, and go outside, but then she wanted to finish – but still ‘couldn’t.’ We were frozen at the piano. I envisioned Levi Woodbury, Secretary of the Navy, having a tantrum at this piano. I imagined Franklin Pierce trying to make his way through the 19th century’s equivalent of “Legato Skips” (which may well have been “Legato Skips…”)

As Isabel began crying at full tilt – stuck between wanting to please me and those 8 notes, my mind raced between trying to be patient, wondering if I was being too patient, and the sledding hill. Then, suddenly, she said it…”You’re not my daddy anymore!” (actually, she sort of cried/screamed it.) I should pause here. I’m assuming that, if you are reading this, you are a parent. If you’re not, you may not understand how my daughter could have uttered such a profound statement, which seems so out of proportion to the situation. Welcome to the twilight zone of parenthood where sometimes things happen that are so strange and out of context that you learn to accept the fact that there simply is no explanation (a little like what comets must have been to stone-age people).

Anyway, I wish I could say that I wept and embraced my daughter, and she cried and realized the error of her ways, like the end of an Eight is Enough episode. That’s not what happened, though. I got up and said, “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.” About five minutes later she came into the kitchen and said, “Daddy, do you still want to go sledding?”   I said, “Sure, let’s go.”  On our second run, as we reached speeds that neared those of a luge, and all was forgotten, I began to wonder if Franklin Pierce had ever slid down this hill.




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