I bought a piano the other day. It is an older upright. According to the serial number imprinted inside on the harp, it was created between 1919 and about 1925-ish. It is not an ornate piano, but one of those very sturdy plain ones that graced church Sunday school classrooms across America. And one that has been loved a lot of years.
I remember hearing the piano's music lilting across the street during the summer when I was a child. My neighbors inherited the piano, and the house it had graced since 1945, when the elder Mrs. D passed away. Sadly-the piano has been silent in the years since her death . Mr. D. (her son) was very happy when I told him I would like to have the piano. Relieved actually.
They are moving. Downsizing. Bought a new one-level home with central heat and air, plumbing that works, good wiring, smaller yard, and no room for an upright piano. Like a lot of older neighbors they can no longer take care of their also aging property. It is breaking their hearts to leave. And we are saddened to see another set of good neighbors leaving.
I have been thinking about my neighborhood again. The one that as a child I could not wait to leave. And I did too. For about two years. Then I bought a house three doors down from where I grew up and where my parents still lived. Next door to me on all sides were friends I had known all my life and this is where I raised my sons, among friends and neighbors and, of course, grandparents that knew and loved them.
I did a series of altered books several years ago. While I was sprucing up my studio to make room for the new addition, I took out the volumes to look over them. The images above are from one of those altered books. It is a book about Community. In it I painted quick watercolor sketches of my neighbors and asked them to all write something about their lives growing up, in their old neighborhoods. A lot of those neighbors who participated are now gone, including my mother. I treasure this small volume.
My neighbors all had great stories about living here over the years. Which houses had the most kids - Where everyone hung out after school - The fact that my yard once - in the '30s- had a wooden roller coaster! I've shared a lot of my stories with my sons about how Mrs. So-and-So always had cookies. Or to watch out and not let a ball go into Mr. X's yard. It is interesting how we still call the houses by the names of the people who lived there when we were kids. Someday I hope my house (and my dad's house) is known by my family's name because we lived here long enough to make an impact. I'll probably be remembered as that eccentric art lady. I should be so lucky!
In a world that is transient, I know I am something of a relic. I didn't plan to be here this long, but as fate would have it - and time wore on - it seemed the best place to call home.
I got a spot cleared out in my studio for the piano. It looks good here. I don't actually play, but I can pick out a few tunes. I've polished it up. I will need to get it tuned. I hope that with a little perseverance I can play something well enough to allow lilting music to drift across the lawns during the summers again. Maybe someone will hear it and have a fond memory also.
Posted by Sandra Van Winkle