The piano my mother bought me made my dream come true
I still have the piano and it is a treasure, because it is a testament to my mom. On Mother’s Day, I will play her favorite piece, “Ave Maria.”
“I want a piano,” I repeated to my mother every chance I got. I was around 12 years old, and many of my friends played the piano, so I begged my mother to buy one for me too. My parents were factory workers and we had very little money and lived in a very small house on the South Side of Chicago. So the answer was always no.
I shared my angst in grammar school and my friend Karen, who already took lessons and had a piano, told me that the music teacher she studied with had extra pianos in her breezeway where students without pianos could practice. The teacher was just a few blocks from my house, so I could walk over whenever I wanted.
I hurried home from school and told my mother that I had a solution: “I can take piano lessons without a piano.”
My mother agreed, and I had a weekly lesson and then walked over to the teacher’s house several times a week to practice. After several months, I again started begging for my own piano. The answer was still no.
I was undeterred and continued my badgering. One day my mother said she wanted to come to the piano teacher’s house and listen to me play. She seemed very pleased with my ability and talked to the teacher, who assured her I was a good student. On the walk home, my mother said she would get me a piano.
One Saturday morning, we took the Archer Avenue bus downtown to the Baldwin store at 323 S. Wabash Ave. It was a giant showroom filled with pianos. I just assumed I would get a used piano and that was where we started, but after looking around, my mother said, “We’re getting a new one.” It was a beautiful mahogany Acrosonic.
My mother signed the papers and when we came home, she told my father, who was a gentle man and a kind man; he said nothing, but I knew he was not happy.
The piano was delivered to our little two-flat on Springfield. To make room for it, my mother had to give her beloved credenza away, and the piano was carried in and put down in its place. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I loved playing whenever I wanted and continued with my lessons.
I changed teachers and studied piano until I went away to college. After that, I was often too busy to play, but I still loved the piano dearly. When I got married and got my own home, my mother paid movers to move the piano to my house and my children took lessons on it.
My mother, Jean Golec, died in 2011 and while cleaning out her possessions, I came across a coupon book from 1961. It was for the payments on my piano, which cost $1,022.83. In my eagerness to get a piano, I never thought about how my parents would pay for it. But there it was. The stubs from the payments my mother made on my piano, as well as the final letter telling her the piano was paid-in-full. And she kept all this, I’m sure, because in the back of her Depression Era mind, she worried someone might try to take it back.
But I think she was also proud of her own accomplishment.
I still have the piano and it is a treasure, because it is a testament to my mom. It reminds me every day that despite little money and not enough space, my mother made my dream happen.
I recently started taking piano lessons again and often think of my mother when I practice. On Mother’s Day I will play my mother’s favorite piece, “Ave Maria,” to honor the woman who took me to the Baldwin store and bought me a piano on payments because she believed in me. And while I know the piano may someday be gone, the gift is everlasting.
Gloria Golec is Emeritus Professor of English at the College of DuPage. She lives in Glen Ellyn.
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