By TMoM Team Member Ellen Bryant Lloyd
One summer afternoon in 1974, my mom asked me to join her on the floor where she sat in front of our large console stereo, flipping through a tall stack of vinyl albums. My mom loved music and had a wide variety of albums by artists that reflected her varied taste. She held out a particular album cover towards me and said, “This is one of my favorites. It is by Tchaikovsky, a composer of beautiful classical music.”
She then removed the album from its protective sleeve and carefully secured it on the turntable. She placed the needle on a specific track and said, “This is one of my very favorite pieces — Piano Concerto No 1. Close your eyes and listen. Be open to how you feel and where the music takes you.”
As the music wafted through the air, I watched my mom lean against the stereo cabinet, close her eyes, and smile a soft smile. It seemed as though the music had taken her away to a special, happy place where all was right and good. I liked that. I followed her lead and sat still with my eyes closed and listened to the music. I was eager to see where it would take my six-year-old self.
While I don’t exactly remember “where” the piece took me that day, I do remember liking it a lot. About a year later, I became more interested in music and started taking piano lessons. One of my mom’s friends heard I was taking lessons and passed down some of her old piano music. In the collection was a book of classical music for early/intermediate piano students. My mom opened the book to page 51 — Theme from Piano Concerto No 1 by Tchaikovsky and told me she would love it if I learned to play it.
That initial moment by the stereo and the one that followed with the piano music held great significance for me, although I wouldn’t recognize it until years later. I grew up secretly loving classical music since it did not seem “cool” for an adolescent or teenager to admit such a thing. After several years of taking piano lessons, I was finally ready to learn this special piece of music and surprise my mom.
Unfortunately, not long after I really started learning it, I had to stop taking lessons due to unforeseen circumstances. I eventually learned this piece on my own, but it was never as polished as I would have liked, or it should have been. Despite this, each time I played it, my mom walked into the living room and smiled the same soft smile she had that day by the stereo. She never said anything, just smiled. I smiled back, knowing we understood each other and the memories between us.
Years later, my daughter expressed an interest in the piano and started taking lessons. This prompted me to take lessons again, which I continued for several years. For my initial assessment, I played a rusty rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. That evening, I could not wait to call my mom to tell her I had started taking lessons again and played her favorite piece for my assessment and would continue working on it for her. She was overjoyed with this news.
Fast forward to one afternoon in the fall of 2014, a year after my mom passed away. I looked through the mail and saw our tickets for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks Series had arrived. I read through the season program and noticed that the November concert would feature Igor Kamenz, a brilliant and very accomplished pianist, performing, you guessed it, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I could hardly wait for the concert date. The anticipation of hearing this piece performed live was equivalent to Christmas morning to me as a child.
As Mr. Kamenz approached the piano at center stage, I felt intense emotion build within me. From the first note, I sat mesmerized as his fingers danced across the piano keys and the orchestra joined him to beautifully perform this piece in full splendor. Tears gathered in my eyes and my heart swelled with the memory of the many times my mom looked in on me as I played a much simpler version of this piece. Even more poignant was the memory of just the two of us, sitting on the floor by the console stereo when we listened to the piece for the first time. When I watched her take in the music, she invited me to do the same. It was a powerful memory. A powerful moment.
You never know when something will make an impact on someone else, even something as simple as an invitation to listen to a piece of music. May you always remain open to the seemingly insignificant moments in life, especially with our children. You never know when a moment will really matter and make an impact that will last a lifetime.
I am not sure if my mom ever realized the power of the moment we shared. I know I do, and always will.
Ellen Bryant Lloyd is a writer and mom of two children, one who has flown from the nest and the other is not far from it. She blogs about perspectives on life and parenting at mindfulmom.wordpress.com and tweets at @EllenBLloyd. She is the author of FRECKLES and FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue, a freelance writer and memoir ghostwriter. Ellen lives in Greensboro with her husband, her daughter, when she is home from college, and the sweetest dog ever. She looks forward to seeing her son, who is now living and working in a nearby metropolitan city, as often as possible.