I called my mom after it happened last September. And she almost cried.
Remember those eight years of piano lessons, I asked. Of course she did.
Did she remember those eight miserable years of piano lessons where she had to drag me kicking and screaming to the piano teacher? Those years of piano where it seemed like she was paying $60 an hour to argue with me for five? Of course; how could any of us forget?
Somehow over the past semester, more than a decade since that last triumphant piano lesson when I was 13, it all became worth it. I had avoided the instrument fairly successfully in the past 10 years. But when another staff member asked me last fall to teach a child whose behavior was finally improving and who desperately wanted to learn how to play, how could I refuse?
I printed out some basic sheet music online. I trudged down to the dormitory. “Mervin” and I sat down on the piano bench and I slowly taught him how to connect the musical notes to the keyboard. It was all coming back. Within half an hour, he was playing “Mary had a Little Lamb” on his own. And soon we had a crowd.
A gaggle of tough middle school boys in black heavy metal T-shirts and cool swaggers huddled around us, eagerly trying to point out to Mervin where the next note was supposed to be on the keyboard. When I asked them to keep quiet so Mervin could concentrate, they got louder, but this time to ask me to come back and teach them piano too.