Dad and I had an early dinner and headed out to my piano lesson. It was dark earlier than usual because the sun had gone down behind thick snow clouds. He parked the car behind the church, and as we got out and started across the street to the building that housed the church offices and Sunday school classrooms, we could hear the gentle tap, tap of the first snowflakes falling on the holly bushes that lined the side wall of the church.
The front door of the renovated old farmhouse stuck a little. It always took the slightest extra nudge to pop it open. My stomach jumped with the sound of the door un-sticking, and the butterflies that had been fluttering just a little became more forceful as we went in and started up the wooden stairs. I was always a little nervous before my piano lesson, but this night, each step up to the next stair just increased my nervousness because I knew that Holly would know that I hadn't practiced what she had assigned for me. Plus, I needed to cut my fingernails.
The lesson before mine was just finishing. I could hear the last few notes of a piece and then Holly's voice. My nervousness turned to a guilty dread as I listened to the sound of a folding metal chair scrape the floor and then the student's mother's voice getting nearer as they came toward the door. I hoped that they knew they could take their time. There were the usual hello's and how-are-you's when they opened the door and came out and my father and I went in. I took my time crossing the long room to the tall antique upright in the far corner. I sat on the round-topped wooden stool and was relieved to feel that it was too low. I stood and postponed my lesson a little longer by spinning it higher. Very slowly. Eventually, though, I had to sit down. It wasn’t that I hadn’t practiced at all; I just hadn’t practiced what Holly had told me to.
I sat and turned to Holly. “Before we start, can I play something for you?” I asked. I had read ahead in my lesson book and knew that I could play the next piece well. She agreed, and I opened my book.
I don’t remember the name of the piece or the way the notes looked on the page or even the melody. I have a vague feeling now that the piece was in the key of D Major. Maybe D minor. What I do remember is that when I started to play, I felt the music fill the room. I don’t know where it came from. The music didn’t come from inside me. It felt like came through me. It flowed out of me as if I was the instrument and the music played me. And while I played, I wasn’t full of butterflies anymore. I was confident and comfortable and whole, engulfed by the music.