“I won’t tell you again, now GET IN THE CAR!” At the time I heard this command I was an eight-year-old boy on the receiving end of his mother’s scowl. All my delaying tactics had failed. It was now inevitable. I was going for my first piano lesson and was not happy about it. I’d heard the stories from other boys at school: knuckles rapped with rulers; having to wear a tie and stiff shoes at recitals; and the fate worse than death—being forced to play duets with silly girls covered in poofy dresses. Mom now had me in her clutches and as she strapped me in the family Ford Pinto I prepared for what was sure to be the worst day of my life.
As we pulled into the driveway of our destination the previous hour’s hapless victim was walking out to a waiting car. The grin on his face didn’t fool me for an instant. It had to be a clever ruse to hide the horrors of what was surely inflicted upon him every week. I walked to the door to be greeted by a thin, charcoal-eyed, colorful shirt-wearing woman that was older than Mom but younger than Grandma. She smiled, pat me on the head, and complimented my manners—I hated her already. As I entered the living room I faced immediate and thorough inspection by a succession of four dogs, each bigger than the previous. Being found clean of explosives I was allowed to proceed to the piano bench.
In an obvious attempt to lull me into her web of musical torture I was told to, “Be a dear and play a little something.” With one eye on my antagonist, one on the keys, and two feet dangling, I began to play the only song I knew:
Mar-y had a lit-tle “oops,” lit-tle “darn it,” lit-“fudge” lamb
Mar-y “rats” a “doh”-tle lamb, her “grrr” was white as “arrrgh” snowThat was the best I’d ever played that song! “Not bad,” I thought, “Any intelligent adult will certainly realize I don’t need lessons when I have already mastered all the nuances of Mary and her Lamb.” I proudly turned to Mom for confirmation but instead found her digging a checkbook from her purse as she said, “I suppose we’d better pay for the whole month up front.”
The next four years I spent 30 minutes nearly every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. with Mrs. Pervus and her four dogs. Some days her 5 p.m. victim might have even seen me walk out to the car with a slight grin on my face.