Music and a Lesson #SixSentenceStoryThursdayLinkUp #Inspiration #WritingPrompts

Abbie wears a blue and white V-neck top with different shades of blue from sky to navy that swirl together with the white. She has short, brown hair and rosy cheeks and smiles at the camera against a black background.Photo Courtesy of Tess Anderson Photography

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Two Pentacles Publishing.

 

When I was in high school, my brother Andy, seven years my junior, got a drum set. Once he became proficient, I played with him on the piano and sang. Dad occasionally joined us on a string bass.

We played for jam sessions and other events. Eventually, after I went away to college, our band stopped playing. But when Dad died, Andy and I revived it one last time for his celebration of life with the song, “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” a lesson Dad tried to teach us.

Thanks to Girlie on the Edge for inspiring the above with her six-sentence story prompt for this week, where the given word is “band.” You can click here to participate in this week’s hop and read other bloggers’ six-sentence creations.

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New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

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A Piano of My Own #Jottings #TuesdayTidbit #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

 

 

When my mother was alive, she loved to talk about an incident from my childhood that I don’t remember. When I was about five years old and we were living in Tucson, Arizona, my parents acquired an upright piano. I don’t know what brand it was or if it was new or used. It was intended as a toy for me, but one day, my mother heard me playing the opening notes to Beethoven’s fifth symphony and decided it was time to call a piano teacher.

I loved playing the piano, especially making up melodies and harmonies, which impressed my parents. I didn’t like the piano lessons so much because I had to play these boring exercises, then some classical pieces by Bach and Mozart, which I loved listening to but found hard to play. Because of my limited vision, I couldn’t read music. So, Mother had to teach me the pieces I was required to learn, and she had little patience. However, I endured the lessons until I was twelve. By that time, we’d moved here to Sheridan, Wyoming, and my mother had given up insisting I take lessons.

I enjoyed playing popular songs. Friends taught me how to play “Chopsticks” and “Heart and Soul,” which are two fun duets children can play together. My mother and I often played classical duets. I tried teaching her “Heart and Soul,” but without sheet music, she couldn’t or wouldn’t do it.

After we moved to Wyoming, I started using the piano to accompany my singing. When I was a freshman in high school, my father encouraged me to take a jazz improvisation class. But like classical music, although I enjoyed listening to jazz, I couldn’t get the hang of playing it.

As a junior in high school, I won first place in a local talent competition with my rendition of “You Light Up My Life.” My brother, seven years my junior, got a drum set, and we often had fun playing and performing together with me on piano and vocals and him on drums.

In college, when I majored in music for four years, I had to endure more piano lessons and learn to play classical music again. But I survived, and during my senior recital, I managed to do a decent job of playing Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor.

Once I started training in music therapy, I was free of the obligation to play classical music. Since I decided to focus primarily on nursing home residents, I used the piano to accompany my singing of standards from the earlier part of the twentieth century, which were popular when many older people were growing up. After I got my first apartment and job here in Sheridan, my grandmother gave me her piano, an upright Kimball, since she didn’t play. Others in my family were musical. My grandfather played the saxophone, and two uncles played piano and guitar. But since my grandfather had passed away and both uncles were no longer living at home, Grandma didn’t want the piano. I was delighted to take it off her hands. I’ve moved three times since then, but I’ve always found a place for it and treasure it still today.

I no longer work as a registered music therapist, but I entertain at nursing homes and other venues. So, I use the piano to practice what I’ll perform. I recently started playing the piano and singing in on-line talent programs through ACB Community Calls, a series of activities held on Zoom, sponsored by the American Council of the Blind.

In case you’re wondering what happened to the original piano my parents bought, my nephew in Colorado has it. He teaches piano and writes songs, and I hope he’ll make good use of it. As for my piano, as long as I’m able to play, it’ll be with me always.

How about you? Did you ever learn to play a musical instrument? Do you still have such an instrument today? Please feel free to share your memories in the comment field.

***

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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Tuesday Book Feature: Love Letters in the Grand

Note: Since Thanksgiving falls on the day I normally review books here, I’m changing things around a bit. I’ll have a special treat for you on Thanksgiving Day, so stay tuned.

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Love Letters in the Grand: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Big City Piano Tuner

By John Justice

Copyright 2017

In this collection of stories, the author, totally blind, relates his experiences tuning pianos in New York City and Philadelphia during the 1960’s and 70’s. Some tales are humorous like “It Won’t Play If You Don’t Pay,” in which he describes his underhanded way of dealing with a customer who refused to pay for his services. Others showcase how unfairly he was treated by some customers, e.g. “Unintended Disaster,” in which he was blamed for breaking a music lamp on a piano top after being told it was clear.

Some stories don’t have much to do with piano tuning like “Star’s Rippingly Good Solution,” in which he explains how his guide dog handled a mugger on a New York City subway. In the title story, he relates how he found a packet of love letters inside a grand piano. At the end, he explains how he met his second wife at a rehabilitation facility for the blind in Little Rock, Arkansas, and eventually married her and found other employment while still tuning pianos on the side.

Since I play the piano, I was fascinated by his explanation of the inner workings of the instrument, as he related his various experiences. I liked his descriptions of Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Center where he was sent to tune pianos. As a registered music therapist, my favorite piece was “Song for Adrienne,” in which his playing of a familiar Christmas carol touched the heart of a young woman in a psychiatric hospital. I loved his quote at the end. “Life is like a piano. It has highs and lows, but when all is said and done, it is an instrument on which we all must play our tunes.”

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Big House in the Little Town

As a kid, I always wanted to live in a house with a lot of stairs. The irony was that due to my visual impairment, I was more prone to falling down them. In 1973, we moved from the big city of Tucson, Arizona, to the little town of Sheridan, Wyoming. I was twelve years old, and my brother Andy was seven years younger.

Grandpa Johnson passed away two years earlier, and Grandma needed someone to run the family’s coin-operated machine business. Since Dad’s siblings weren’t interested, he felt compelled to make the move. We found my dream house a couple of years later.

It was a three-story red brick structure on a quiet street. The house faced south with a basement containing the furnace and hot water heater.

The ground floor consisted of a living and dining room, kitchen, and breakfast nook. Off the living room was a small study and a bathroom containing only a toilet and sink.

The second floor had three small bedrooms, a full bath, and a laundry room. My room was next to the laundry room.

The washing machine never worked right after Dad and my uncles dropped it down the second floor stairs while moving it. Sometimes, it agitated more slowly than usual, making an ominous buzzing noise. During the spin cycle, no matter how evenly clothes were distributed throughout the machine’s interior, it shook, as if in in an earthquake.

For a while, there was also a jukebox in the laundry room. Andy and I spent many happy hours with friends, listening to music and watching the washer dance.

My parents occupied the bedroom across from mine, and the one next to it was made into a study containing my closed-circuit television magnifier, Mother’s typewriter table and desk, a couch that folded into a bed, and for a time, Grandma’s old recliner.

The area off the living room downstairs was what we called the book room. Shelves were installed, and for a while, there was even a pinball machine, a couch, and a stereo. When nobody was playing pinball, it was a place where one could sit and read and/or listen to music.

The third floor was Andy’s domain. It contained two large rooms and a full bath which he later converted into a dark room when he took up photography. He used the front room as a work area where he built model airplanes. The middle room served as his bedroom.

The back yard, surrounded mostly by a fence, consisted of a large open area where at one time, we had a trampoline. Andy and others with better eyes played ping pong and croquet. There was also a wooded area near the back gate, just right for barbecues.

A circular driveway led from the street around back to the garage. Next to the garage was a carriage house with a loft. We moved in the spring of 1976 at the end of my eighth grade year while Andy was in elementary school.

When I was in high school, I pretended to be a singing star like Olivia Newton-John. I stood on the front porch and sang, using a wood chip as a microphone while Andy banged an old paint can to accompany me. Neighborhood kids acted as our audience.

Eventually, Mother and Dad got Andy a drum set and lessons. The drums were set up in the dining room, and our little band was formed with me on piano and vocals and Andy on drums. Dad occasionally joined us on string bass. A couple of years later, the breakfast nook was converted into a music room, and all our equipment, including the stereo, was moved in there.

Now, my parents are gone. Andy lives in Florida with a family of his own. The house was sold long ago, but I still remember.

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What do you recall about a childhood home?

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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