Faithy’s Good Fight by Annita Woz

Inspired by Faith & Grandma Isabel’s piano-one that won’t be played again.


Sitting in the garage of our new house sits a very old piano. It is broken, kinda scratched up and has some of the white keys peeled off so the glue is brown and it is all rough when I touch it. When I plunk on the keys I hear the squeaky sounds that my dad tells me are piano wires and hammers that don’t move right anymore.

I don’t know what hammers have to do with singing and dancing,  but its insides don’t bother me.  It still makes music. It still lets me do a show and I like to have concerts with my brother and my cousins when they come to visit. I’d like to keep this piano and practice my lessons in it, but I can’t.

The piano bench is small. Like me. It is a little wiggly but so am I. When I sit on the bench with my doll, my toes can reach the floor and touch a pedal but not the broken one that is turned and sits on its side and doesn’t work anymore.  If I scoot all the way to the front I can put one purple tennis shoe on my favoite pedal.  When I press it and hold down a white key, it makes a long echo of the note, like the sounds on wedding days where the bride walks slowly with her long dress trying to stay behind her.

My Grandpa Larry tells me that this piano was made, piece by piece from someone who stole its parts from a piano factory one by one. I thought stealing was wrong but Grandpa never says anything about anyone going to jail so maybe stealing was ok back then if it was for making music. I have heard that music can make people do things they wouldn’t regularly do.

It has been a long time since anyone has played this piano besides me and my brother. No one seems to know how to do it.  My dad doesn’t play. My mom doesn’t play, but I just learned that Cousin Cheri can play and that she has an even older piano that is like a sister to this one in my garage.  It belonged to my Great Great Grandma Esther and that’s a lot of Grandma’s ago. That piano was all tuned up by a piano man and is still loved even though it is old because it is beautiful on the inside and the outside- I guess that is just like all Grandma’s are.  They fixed that piano all up and they do not let it live in their garage.

I learned how to lift up the lid and fold it back without pinching my fingers to show the white and the black keys.  Once I had some popcorn butter on my fingers when I tried to open it and I accidentally let it go too early and the lid snapped shut and got me. It was just on my long finger, the one that we aren’t supposed to show anyone, so I just went back upstairs and had some more popcorn.

My brother sometimes hits the piano keys hard, and sometimes I do,  too. We aren’t supposed to do that, but when we play rock and roll, that is just the sound we have to have. My dad can play some rock and roll on Grandpa’s guitar if he plays with the buttons on the front of it and then punches some buttons on the amplflyer- I mean amplifier- that we gave him last Christmas. This piano doesn’t have any buttons on it, but it seems to like to rock out with us.

I remember this piano coming to my old house.  First it was in a farmhouse, then it retired with Grandma and Grandpa to a house in a little town that did not have any cows down a lane.  Lots of things were placed carefully on top of it.  There was a plastic bottle of Mary, Jesus’s mother, but she was wearing a blue crown that I knew was a twist off cap. One of my cousins opened it once to smell it and she didn’t spill it at all, she just put it under her nose to see if she might like to have just a little of it on her wrist.  But she made a face and closed it right up again.

On top was also a glass koala bear holding on to a limb of a tree but the tree was blue. I was very careful when I looked at it but I didn’t know how to read then so I didn’t know what it said.  I know that the piano had a lot of pictures on top of it like one of two cousins with very blond hair from Thief River Falls.  Maybe that is where they stole all the parts to make it.

The piano came to our old house in a truck and they drove all the way to the back on the lawn and rolled it right into the basement where we had our playroom.   When my dad lifted it, he said his head almost popped off.  My mom says they don’t make things like this anymore. My Grandpa says to thank God.

We didn’t put pictures on it, but we put lots of other better things like toys and special things. It could hold a lot of cleaned up toys. The bench was a strong tent holder upper and when my brother and I raced to choose which place could be our house, I always ran fastest and took my princess blanket off my bed and threw it over the bench and crawled under it before my brother did.  My brother looks like my dad but he is faster.

Dad is the best. He tells me all sorts of stories. Sometimes my mom has to laugh right out loud when he is telling them to me.  He makes me feel special when he tells me about people I don’t know and he tells them so fast and in such interesting ways that it is like hearing a song without the repeating parts.  He told me about Grandpa Larry and his musical family. One played the accordion, one played guitar and one played an instrument that I can’t remember but he also was a magician and did a show for my dad when he was a baby.  And one sister, my Great Aunt Lucy, played the piano.

My dad remembers seeing the back of her head, her curly dark hair, nodding back and forth to all the little kids who were sitting around the piano when she played. She could play most of the songs we would ask to hear and some fun ones like we sing in school, but they always sounded like they kind of twinkled through her fingertips and she even knew how to use the black keys so the song really sounded like we were all in a big church.

Dad says, Aunt Lucy would sometimes let her daughter sit beside her on the bench and together they would play two part songs. They would begin with ready, set, go and they would play at the same time, but not the same.  And sometimes one would get ahead of her she would laugh and say, “keep the time, you’re a little behind” and then the rest of his cousins would cover their mouths with their hands because it we were told not to say behind and we thought it was very funny that she would tell someone they had a little behind.

My Aunt Nita told me she played this garage piano when she was a girl.  She took just a few months of lessons because she had to pay twelve dollars a lesson and she had to use her babysitting money to take them.  She didn’t have a piano at her house but since Grandma and Grandpa lived just up the road she would go there and practice after she finished getting her lesson from the teacher in the bar on Main Street.   She told me that sitting at the tavern’s piano was exciting and that learning to match her fingers with the black notes in her piano book was hard.  But it wasn’t fun anymore when one day, some men on barstools laughed and leaned their heads over to see in the doorway as she played Jingle Bells in the middle of February because she was still working on it and hadn’t made time to practice as much as she should have.  She never learned to play but she did spend more time visiting Grandma’s piano and playing a little tune that her cousin Lori taught her to play.  Badda bump, bum, bum, bum. Badda bum, bum, bum…She taught it to me when the piano was at our old house. I want to learn more songs.

We moved into a different house this year and the piano came with us. I am going to take lessons because I love music. I love country music and I’m in the country so I should be playing it here soon.  My mom loves music too, and she has the radio on or CTM on the television all the time and she cannot have it not playing. My Dad sings songs in the car, in the shower, in the garage, by the campfire, and all the time.  He cannot be not singing.  And my mom always looks sideways at him when he remembers all the words to the latest song that we just heard on the radio on the way to town. When Dad  sings that one song that they had at their wedding she really starts to act all funny.  Music really loves my mom and it follows her everywhere just like me and my brother.

I want to take lessons on Grandma Isabel’s piano and I don’t want it to go to someone else or to end up being our campfire in the summer, but Grandpa Larry says it just cannot make me sound as pretty as Aunt Lucy and I should have one that sounds  like this one did back when she played it.  I really cried hard because I don’t want a different one and in school we learn all about recycling and I think that this piano should get recycled.

The piano man says that he could make it look pretty outside but cannot guarantee that he can bring her back.  I guess that is something that makes me and my family all sad, but Dad says that old pianos aren’t the only way to have beautiful music-  sometimes when they are gone,  someone will tell a story like this one to his kids and then they come back to us for a while,  just like the chorus in all the best songs- and that is the best that we can do.

### by A. Woz , written with some embellishment and with thanks to all who shared their story about Grandma Isabel’s piano.  Special thanks to Faith who is a sweet kid with room in her heart to love an old piano and fought to keep its voice alive.

3 Responses

  1. well done, my friend!

  2. Exellent

  3. This is a wonderful story. It brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing it.

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