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A musical gift for a musical mother

May 13, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor ( , The Herald-Star

"Remember your promise" my mother reminds me daily now that the room we always called "the piano room" is officially "the piano room" once again.

And that's because the piano has returned to from whence it came - my parents' house, the place where the Howard upright arrived in the 1960s so yours truly and some of my siblings could take lessons.

It was my mother's hope, I suspect, that the Hout House would be a house of classical music just like the household she had grown up in in Wheeling where her father was a charter member of the Wheeling Symphony who played the violin there as did she.

I had the piano hauled back to my mom's in recent weeks after it had been held hostage in my living room, having been moved there more than 15 years ago. I had thought at the time - and my mother agreed - that I would surely play it, so why not have it with me?

I practiced with initial fervor and diligence until the novelty of its presence waned and the duties of daily life, motherhood and work strangled any good music intentions I had.

Sporadically the play-me mood struck, borne out of guilt or gumption, but "concerts" ultimately were reduced to holiday favorites at Christmas.

Then the piano sadly became the piece of furniture living-room-worthy only because it was a place to display family photos.

Save the chopsticks solos by visiting step-grandchildren, the piano became the Maytag Repairman of Instruments - not used, not needed, just there, waiting.

And then it occurred to me: Shame on me. I should play the piano. I should appreciate this gift of music my mother gave me and, in return, give her the gift of music she always embraced, always pleased to hear me play.

So I've been making good on my promise, a promise that's been easy to keep as I honored my first threat to play one of her favorites: "Second Hungarian Rhapsody" by Franz Liszt.

The arrangement I have is an especially good one that my piano teacher, the late Jennie Delphia, had given to me as a Christmas gift in 1970 when I was all of 12. Back then, I felt certain all my peers were having way more fun in their piano-less lives than I was. Many were the times I would have rather been riding my stick horse or twirling a baton, not "doing time" in "the piano room" practicing and more practicing.

How funny now to fast forward, to play because I want to, not because I have to.

How ironic it is to be playing with a new sense of purpose, with a different objective.

Not to practice and play to validate a teacher's instruction.

Not to perform for a rating or a reason.

Just to play to make happy my mother, who sits in the couch near the piano, offering an occasional clap and a "bravo" along with a lament, a lament that at nearly 89 she wishes that she had learned to play well the piano. She wishes her arthritic hands wouldn't trump her desire to caress a keyboard or cradle a violin.

I play every day now, happy that piano is where it should be, and that it's still a showcase for family photos, one of them a picture of my parents on their 25th wedding anniversary sitting on, of all things, the piano bench in front of the piano in the piano room.

How blessed I am for my musical heritage and the opportunities my mother provided.

And how blessed I am for this musical audience of one that is my mother.

Happy Mother's Day.

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.)

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