When the sun finally came out and melted away the unseasonable snow and I stepped out into the chilly afternoon, I heard the notes from the old piano dancing out a door marked with caution tape and paper ghosts.
She was playing the song she didn’t think she could learn, fingers hitting chords that, two weeks ago, simply could not hit three notes at once.
I paused at the corner, where melted snow formed wide puddles in the street gutters and sodden leaves lay in clumps on the sidewalk. “Pop goes the weasel,” the notes sang but the chord on “pop” was off. The notes faltered; she heard it too, goes back, plays that odd disharmony a second time. It’s right this time, and the notes sing on and I walk on, jumping the puddle and breathing deeply of this fall air after the threat of an early winter.
Her eyebrows had gone up and she hadn’t wanted to try the chords when I taught them too her two weeks ago. “At the same time?” she wondered aloud and her hands are so small and her fingers struggled to hold down the keys.
I sent her home with instructions and assurances that yes, I know “The Mouse Ran Up The Clock” is a hard song because it took me a long time to learn it but it is possible!
But the following Tuesday, after she slipped off her shoes on my rug and settled onto the bench, she hadn’t practiced it much.
Her other songs, the ones that didn’t trip her fingers up and stretch her hands so far, she was flying through those, every note perfect.
But she hadn’t tried the hard song.
We spent most of that afternoon session playing the song, first one hand than the other. And I sent her home again with instructions and assurances.
I’ll see her on Tuesday, and she’ll push her glasses back up on her nose and play it for me. But I heard on that street corner that the pathways in her young mind are forming, that she’s figured out how to make those left-hand fingers play and how one hand works with the other and the song, it’s coming together.
The out-of-reach is reachable now.
We don’t walk far because the Steelers play in just five minutes and I settle back into the splash of sunlight on the couch, yarn and crochet hook in hand. I look from television screen to clumsy stitches and compare to the illustration in the cheap “learn to crochet” book I picked up with the yarn and wish I’d stuck with cross stitch.
I can cross stitch anything, really. But crocheting?
Something isn’t right and during a commercial I search crochet videos on YouTube. Oh. I’ve been missing a step.
The sun moves on past the window and I’ve figured out the stitches but they’re still clumsy, uneven, tight here and loose there and I pull them out, make them all over again, until my hand is cramped from the new positions and Jasmine bites my wrist, tries to wrestle my arm away.
I feel oddly uncomfortable with the crochet hook and I wish for my embroidery needle but if I stay with what I know I’ll never know more.
Tonight, when shadows fall, I’ll pick it up again, slowly strengthening my own fingers and creating my own new pathways in the brain until the unreachable is in my grasp.
And then I’ll try something new.