It has been almost 10 years since my fingers last coaxed a melody from piano keys. Ten years since I tried to look at a line of music notes and already hear them in my head.
For 11 years, all through my childhood, my grandmother gave my brother and I piano lessons. It started when I was 3-years-old. I had to sit on a cushion placed on top of the piano seat so I could see properly. I played every day. And then, when I turned 14, I just stopped.
I stopped because I was too cool for piano. I wanted to play sports instead. I didn't appreciate it.
And then, as I got a bit older, I started to regret that decision. When I went to my grandma's house, I'd sit and listen to her play, watch her wrinkled fingers with perfectly manicured nails skip over the keys effortlessly while she closed her eyes. It was as if she was listening to someone else play Handel or Bach, as if her hands were not her own.
So many times, I almost asked her to teach me again, but I was nervous I'd forgotten everything she ever taught me and what a shame it would be if that turned out to be the truth. So I never touched her piano again. Not one note.
S came home last night with a box. A big box. He set it on my bed and tore it open, pulled out bubble wrap and soft packing material. Then he pulled out a keyboard. He said he wanted to learn how to play and his grandma had it stored away for years and she just gave it to him.
He sat on my bed and started playing random notes and chords, trying to hit the right note. When he plays bass or guitar, he doesn't really read music, he plays by ear, working it out from songs he plays on his laptop. I watched.
Then I saw a book. It was yellowed, ripped a bit and curled at the edges. I pulled it from the box and opened it, releasing a puff of air that tasted of stale cigarettes. It was a simple beginner's book with no chords and only the treble clef. Songs like Silent Night, Yankee Doodle, Oh, My Darlin' Clementine.
While S played, I studied the lines of simple music in the book and closed my eyes trying to remember how to read music. A few minutes later, he left to take some stuff to his mom's and said, “You have a go.”
When I heard the front door close, I put my fingers on the keys and I looked at the book. It came rushing back to me and I went through the entire simple book, playing every song so easily I surprised myself.
I took out my laptop and searched for free sheet music. I wanted to see if I could find some chords, some music with the bass clef, a little challenge. When S came back, I was working through a more difficult version of Silent Night, with chords on both hands. It all came back to me. I had to stop and think about the really high or low notes and I was still really rusty, but I know if I started practising again, I would be able to get back to where I was at 14.
Those 11 years of lessons haven't gone to waste.