Staccato. Forte. Slur. The music notes danced in front of my eyes as my small fingers fell heavily on the ivory keys. Have a hol-ly, jol-ly Christmas! I sang the words to myself, burning them into my brain. It’s the best time of the year…
Mrs. Wentworth said she thought I could learn the song. The sheet music was a level harder than I was used to playing, but she had been my piano teacher for years and I wanted to impress her. That Monday evening after piano lessons, I eagerly sat down at the piano in the front living room of our house, prepared to learn the song before dinner.
Slowly, I played the right hand melody from beginning to end and concentrated on not making any mistakes. E-G-C-C-B-B-A-G. Again and again. I moved to the bottom staff and played the left hand line until the notes were perfect. Now it was time to put the two together.
Have a hol-ly jol—
The clashing notes stopped the lyrics in my mind. I had messed up. Over and over, I would begin the song, only to stop. Why can’t I do this? Twenty minutes passed and the same mistakes continued to happen. I looked at the top of the page where the rhythm suggestion was normally printed: “Moderately bright with a happy feeling.” I started to cry, but they weren’t tears of sadness that were spilling from my eyes.
The sounds of my mother working busily in the kitchen drowned out the sounds of my frustrated fingers banging themselves against the piano keys. I was angry, but not with the music or Mrs. Wentworth; I was angry with myself and with my inability to control the song or the tears that were now flowing from my eyes. If I couldn’t be perfect, I didn’t want to try at all. I didn’t want to struggle. I was tired of struggling.
I took the sheet music and shoved it back inside my music case. I would tell Mrs. Wentworth next week that I hadn’t tried to play it because I was focusing on my other music. I wouldn’t tell her I tried and couldn’t do it. I would just ignore it entirely and pretend the music – the problem – never existed in the first place.