I sit at my piano. It lies in my family’s living room, covered in dust. Not the neglected type of dust, but the vintage, rustic type of dust, the dust that gives the piano a cozy, charming feeling. I run my fingers over the old white keys. Now I run my hand over the old chestnut top, getting a handful of dust. Rain knocks at the windows and I can hear Kelsey crying in her crib. Kelsey is my baby sister. I do get jealous of her, but I can do something she can’t; play the piano. I open the parchment pages of my music book and, all at once, my fingers fly. Dancing on their ivory carpet, my fingertips can’t stop and there is no need for my music book, but I can’t tear my hands away from the piano to take it down. I’m flying, soaring, away from Kelsey’s crying, the pounding of the rain, the rustling of the angry trees outside. All I can hear is the sweet hum of my piano’s breath, and I can almost imagine myself in a white-and-black- checkerboard room, with only me and my piano. And now my prancing fingers, cantering across the creamy white road, like ten brown horses, pulling the purple carriage of my sweater sleeve, have come to their destination. The black notes are gone from the paper, the song has ended. I rest my hands and breathe in the smell of the dust that has risen from the movement of my ten steeds, pounding the road, leaving tiny footprints of dust. I sigh, and carefully rum the pages of my music book, preparing for my next routine. Slowly, I place my hands on the board, and suddenly, there are no hands, but two fluttering tan sparrows. Their little calls match with the sighs of my piano, and again all I can hear is the singing from the chestnut base. The sparrows flutter from key to key, without any movement; just sweet, free flight. This song is shorter than the first, and my birds land soon, landing by the edge of my denim jean lake. I would’ve started another journey to that checkerboard room, my fingertips ready to turn yet another page in my music, but Momma comes in, Kelsey in her arms, wrapped up in her little pink Polartec babysuit.
Momma smiles and says to me, “That was good practicing, Brandi. I heard you from Kelsey’s nursery Do you want to take a walk with us?”
“You’re taking Kelsey out in this rain?” I ask.
Momma nods and says with exasperation, “I can’t get her to sleep, so I’m hoping maybe a walk will tire her out. Are you coming?” I nod and pull on my coat, boots, and scarf. Then, I run to get my umbrella. Passing the living room, I silently bid my old piano goodbye, and my toffee-colored horses crawl back into their fleece stables, my pockets, and rest. My piano is my friend.
The piano is not my only friend. My best friend is Paula Leigh, although I just call her Paul, like everyone calls me Brandi, even though my real name is Brianna May. Momma and Daddy named me that because Daddy liked the name Brie and Momma liked May, and they both liked Anna. So my name is actually three combined. Anyway, Paul is my best friend, and also my neighbor. She’s three years older than me, but we’re like sisters. Sometimes she chaffs my love of piano, especially when we can’t play because of practice. I don’t mind though, because I can razz Paul about her love for trumpet, and she practices just as much as I do. We are friends because we both understand each other’s love for music. We both know how important music can be, to two kids like us, at least. The piano is my key to friendship.
After Momma, Kelsey, and I are home from our walk, it is 11:12. Kelsey is asleep. After Momma puts her in her crib, she asks me if I want to go shopping with her.
“No,” I say as I pour myself a glass of orange juice.
She just smiles and says, “Too bad, hon. You have to come. It’s for a surprise.” So I put on my coat, hat, scarf, and boots again and we go into the car. Momma drives us to the mall and she leads me inside.
“What’s the surprise?” I ask, for I love surprises. Momma smiles again and shakes her head. Finally, we stop in front of a little shop that says Dresses and Suits for the Little Folk. We go here every year to get a Christmas dress for me, and now Kelsey. I know this is only part of the surprise. When I follow Momma in, I see frills and bows and frou-frous. Two tall, chattering ladies come over immediately. They talk so fast that I cannot understand them. Eventually, they lead Momma and me to a tiny dressing room. It is amazing that we can all fit. One woman has a pile of dresses in her hands, and the other has a hairbrush, a mirror, and a pile of hair ribbons. Now the ladies pull off my sweater and my pants. I stand there in my underwear and undershirt, and I feel like a doll. The two woman are pulling dresses over my head, and then pulling them off. I’m so glad when they leave, that I don’t even see what dress they are ringing up.
Momma smiles and says, “Well, as soon as we get the dress, I can tell you what your surprise is!” So we go up front and the ladies hand us the dress. As soon as we get out of the store, I pounce on Momma, “What’s the surprise?! The surprise?!!”
Momma smiles knowingly and says, “You’re going to perform a song on your piano for the Christmas party on Christmas Eve. Your piano teacher thinks you should play ‘Angel’s Carol.'”
Every Christmas, my family has a Christmas party for nearly the whole neighborhood. We kids get together about four days before the party and conduct a play. Paul and I are usually the directors. Last year we did “Noah’s Ark,” and before that we did “The Nutcracker,” and even before that we did “Sophia and the Toy Box.” Usually I sing something for the party, but never have I considered playing on my beloved piano. Now that I think about it, it seems like a brilliant idea. I love my piano, and it’ll be easy . The piano is my passion.
* * *
It is Christmas eve at six-thirty. Our party starts at seven, and goes to about ten-thirty. I am in my room changing. I still haven’t seen my Christmas dress, and it lies on my bed, still in its bag. I walk over and pull out the dress. It is light leaf green and made out of satin. It goes a little past my knees and it is sleeveless. The thin straps are gold with green and red designs on them. It comes with a small jacket, just barely touching the bottom of my rib cage, with white fur on the edges. The dress has a full skirt, perfect for twirling, and the jacket is warm. I love it. I put it on with my white tights and my baby blue mary-janes with the bows. Just for the sake of it, I start twirling round and round, on the tiptoes of my periwinkle shoes. Suddenly, Daddy pokes his head in.
“You look lovely, Brandi!” he exclaims, and twirls me in the air. Then he tells me to go downstairs soon. So I walk down, and Momma puts a matching blue hair ribbon around my dark braid, then goes upstairs to get Kelsey. When they come down, I smile. I can’t help it! Kelsey looks like a little baby doll. She has on a lacy white dress and has white sandals on her tiny feet. Her eyes are shining with laughter and her tiny little mouth is smiling. She has a white hair band around her head, and her cheeks are pink with delight. Her eyes sparkle. I rush to her and embrace her, and then I tickle her tummy. Kelsey giggles helplessly I do get jealous of her, but she really is sweet. Then we hear a knock at the door, which brings me back to reality. Soon I would be playing my piano, in front of about twenty grownups. But I know I will play well, with honor and dignity. The piano is my pride.
As soon as everyone arrives, we start the play, which is “Mary and Joseph.” I am Mary and Kelsey is Jesus. She really does look like an angel, curled up in her basket, which was the manger bed. She has her fingers in her mouth and is fast asleep, not moving. Just when I go to pick her up, Kelsey opens her big, blue eyes. I fall to pieces, with her curled up in my arms, and so does the audience. They “ooh,” and “ahhh” and exclaim “Adorable!” “Angelic!” and “Beautiful!”
After the play, Momma tells me that it is time for my piano. I go into the bathroom, change out of my Mary costume and into my Christmas dress, and walk into the living room. Obviously, Daddy has already announced that I am going to play, because the audience claps loudly. I march like a soldier to my piano. My beloved piano. Slowly, with shaking hands, I put up the music. I take a deep breath and eye the first note. And out prance the brown-coated horses. They fly wildly across the keys, racing against time. Soaring across the rainy sky, I fly, finally seeing where my fingertips go when they dive into the piano. I am inside the piano, I can hear every note being played. I jump upon my loyal horses. There is no need for a harness or saddle, for my fingers know the board by heart. They are soaring sparrows, they are prancing horses, they are dancers in the Arabian sun, they are my hands. I can feel my voice come out from inside. I cannot help it; I start singing to my music. To the birds, my singing is the call of another bird, an oriole or blackbird. To the horses, my singing is the desperate blowing of the hot breeze, rustling dry plants. To the dancers, my singing is their music; the hot rays of the sun glaring, the splashing of the cold ocean humming, and the loud whispers of people calling. But to me, my fingers are my fingers, and my croaking is my singing. But I am not “me.” I am not Brianna May Ambersen. I am my piano, my glorious piano. All too quickly, my hands slowly fall off the dusty piano. I can barely hear the shouts and applause of the people. My piano is my friend, the piano is my key to friendship, my piano is my passion, my piano is my pride, my piano is mine. My piano is mine.