Updated: Aug 2, 2021
“ Her Irish catholic parents had disowned my mother briefly, and so I understood why throughout the twelve years I knew my grandmother I always felt more like a visitor than family. "
My mother would kiss her mother on the lips lightly and I would wait behind her for my turn. Her mother was more of a grandmother than a grandma, being not so warm and cuddly, but I suspected she was smart because she seemed to be thinking a lot of things she wasn’t saying. We would all meet in the tiny parlor near the front of her Victorian house and it felt formal but cordial. She always asked if I would like a “Pepsi Cola” and retreated to the kitchen to get the bottle and a glass, while my mother and I sat quietly, as if we were waiting to meet with a lawyer. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that my mother had been forbidden to wed my father, who had been divorced after a short, fraudulent marriage in the 1940’s. Her Irish catholic parents had disowned my mother briefly, and so I understood why throughout the twelve years I knew my grandmother I always felt more like a visitor than family. I would down the Pepsi quickly and cross to her grand piano which filled the entryway. In the silence of the big house, I would fold up the wooden cover, and prepare to play. At some point my soul has played piano because from the time I was born I was banging on an invisible keyboard in my high chair and can still sit down and begin to play any song in my head, including some I have written without a single lesson in this lifetime. I would wait for her ominous wall clock to go off, its loud chimes and syncopated knocking echoing through the empty house and into my bones. Ba buh bah dum…bum bum ba dum. Then I would begin. I played the melody or the harmony of all the songs I knew, one after the other, while the two women talked to each other softly across a glass coffee table in the parlor. Slowly my other hand would join, adding chords as I began to sing quietly to myself. I played until the chimes went off again, then stopped. The house returned to total silence. My mother would be standing next to me, her coat on and mine in hand. “That was beautiful, honey,” she would say. “Let’s go.”