I was 7 yrs old when I started playing the piano (rather than banging on it with a baton because I liked the sound it made, never minding the chips it was making in the ivory keys.  Sorry, Grandma and Grandpa!)  I studied the Suzuki Method with Helene Hancock, a magical silver haired lady with a grand piano in the living room of her beautiful Craftsman style house down the street.  I would walk down the hill for my lesson every week.  I can still remember the smell of her home, a sweet top note with tobacco undertones.  And the feel; cozy and warm, the air calm and thick with serenity.
         Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...the first song I remember in Book 1 of a 4 Book Method.  I loved it, I did.  It is true however, I often would have to be forced to sit down at the piano to practice, but once I did you couldn’t get me up.  I could pause here and write of just this one topic...that of perfectionism from such a young age.  Wanting, no needing, to be perfect at once.  No patience or latitude given to myself for less than perfection.  Mixed in with an uncanny way of ‘picking things up quickly’ and resting on my laurels....for 40 years it seems!

         Towards the end of my playing, there was a girl who had her lesson right before mine, she was learning Joplin.  I wanted to learn Joplin too!  I was half way through Book 4 and then Joplin it would be...only I never got there.  I had a friend studying with another teacher, she was getting to learn Popular music, why was I learning this Classical?  It didn’t matter that I liked it, that it soothed me and brought me to focus, a seed of self doubt was planted.  Actually, nothing mattered, because teenage life was getting too big and I wanted it all (didn’t quite realize you had to actually do something to get it) and sure, didn’t I have it all once the boys, booze and other sundries came along?
         I studied with Helene for years, until I was 13 to be precise.  I had many recitals.  My memory of them is I’m sure, slightly twisted and dark of course.  They were usually at Cal Tech in some Grand Hall.  I just remember the feeling of not being ‘as good as’ the other kids.  They were like those prodigy types (or so I imagined,) how could I live up to that?  Thus the mind would begin; comparing, contrasting, no mistakes, no mistakes! Then of course, there were mistakes.  Little flubs, missteps of my fingers because my mind was in the way.  I had not yet understood that there would always be mistakes in life.  They are a necessity of growth.  They are to be honored, not pushed under the carpet of my mind.  I’m sure I sometimes performed well but that wouldn’t really have mattered for it had already begun, my shadow had already started eating away at my loves.

         And so, I quit.  My Mom got tired of forcing me to practice and in my myopic vision it was cutting into my fun.  The thing is, the music that was in me, the piano, the singing, writing and love for it didn’t quit.

         The road to regret was born.

Songs While Writing: (click song to link)
Francoise Hardy "Un Homme Est Mort"

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