It was the summer of my 6th year - 1991 and we were all down with OPP. I went from Florida to Alabama for the first time with my mother, and I was spending a lot of time wandering in the woods of Appalachia, the rolling hills and the bumbling brooks, the fresh clean air; it's optimum ground for a young boy to explore the great outdoors, and I was perfectly content poking things with sticks and shooting other things with my Daisy Red Ryder, but my mother had another plan. It was my Great-Grandmother's wish that I learn the piano, and she was getting old. Her time was coming to an end and my mother hoped that I would get to know her before she left us. We drove along the Coosa river to her Assisted Living Center, and I was antsy. I didn't want to learn piano. I thought it was a girl's instrument and I was the macho-est of macho. I wanted to hunt squirrels and catch and torture snakes. I wanted to play with my dog and run up to the top of a mountain screaming like a banshee indian. I wanted to be a cowboy Thundercat.
But I guess my mom heard me singing Boyz II Men in the shower, and thought that I had some potential. And after all, it was my Nanna's dying wish. I still remember walking into the strange place full of old people hunched over on walkers, thick shiny glasses, and the smell... I could only compare it to steamed cauliflower and cigarettes. We climbed aboard the rickety old elevator and went up to my Nanna's apartment. She was in her favorite chair knitting a sweater for me. I was so antsy. I wanted to run. I wanted to play! I was a 6 year old boy full of vigor and zest and the attention span of a dog in a squirrel farm. So, we sat down at the piano. She taught me chopsticks and we played a duet. I learned what a "fifth" was and the definitions of melody and harmony. She taught me a nursery rhyme using the fifths called, "Cowboys and Indians," the title excited me, and it held my attention for 3.5 minutes. When my Nanna (forgiving of my adolescent shortcomings) got up from the piano, the lesson was finished. On the ride home, I complained to my mom about the funny smell and the banging out of nursery rhymes. I was forever bored.
A couple of weeks later, my Nanna gave me the sweater that she had knitted. It was a hand-made Cardigan with the word, "Nirvana" on the front. I wasn't even a Nirvana fan really, but she had heard about them as being a popular group, and thought that I might like it. I lost the sweater not that long after. I look back on these days with so much regret thinking that I could've learned so much more from her. She played piano in church every Sunday for years, and could sight read hymns with ease. Her playing was dynamic and beautiful, but I was such a dumb little kid. I didn't even recognize that I had the coolest freaking Great-Grandmother ever. And how could I just lose a made with love, one-of-kind Nirvana sweater?
But one thing that is for certain, she planted the seeds in my heart to be a musician. I vividly remember a couple of ideas that she emphasized to me in those few lessons that I took. I'm not much of a piano player today, but I know that my Nanna would be proud of me. I know that she was a big part of shaping me as a person. I know that I love her, and that I will never forget what she did for me.
Oh yeah, if you find a maroon and white cardigan with Nirvana stitched in the front when you are out thrift store shopping, that shit is mine!