When my Grandma died, she left me her 1907 Steinway upright piano. I don't really know how to play it, other than the standard Heart and Soul, Chopsticks, and a couple of shaky Christmas tunes. My Grandma left me the piano because, she said, I was "the most musical" of her grandchildren.
Music was my Grandma's life. She played on the radio in the '30s, went to NYU to study music, and gave lessons throughout her life. When she was raising her family in Larchmont, NY, she often found herself accompanying her trumpet-playing neighbor, Doc Severinson, who eventually became the band leader on Johnny Carson's late night show. (Really.)
As a child, each Thanksgiving I was forced to bring my acoustic guitar to play "Happy Birthday" along with Grandma on her piano for my brother's Nov. 26 birthday. (The relatives always showered Chris with birthday gifts on Thanksgiving, but my January birthday was much less fortuitous.) My older, cooler cousins, Dutch and Marilyn, never said anything about the guitar, but I know, deep down, that they saw this behavior as incredibly nerdy. Grandma, however, saw it as irrefutable evidence of my commitment to music.
If prepubescent mortification could be considered currency, I paid a lot for this piano.
When Grandma first met Steve, on Thanksgiving in 2000, she was diminished in body and mind but still remained interested in her musical legacy. She took me aside after dinner and asked me, "Does Steve play any musical instruments?"
"No, but he does have a really good singing voice," I answered truthfully.
"Good, good," she replied, nodding her head. I could see the wheels turning, calculating the increased chance that, assuming things with Steve worked out, her eventual great-grandchild would be musical as well, assuring the musical legacy for another generation. I know that made her very happy.
Grandma was too sick to come to our wedding in 2004, and she died in January 2005. We had the piano shipped here last summer, and, $3,900 in restoration costs later, it's like new inside and ready to make music again (see photo, above).
Now I just have to learn to play it.