The latest of my creative writing posts in the Picture Says... series set by my writing friend Kelly Exeter.
The melody still dances through my mind, as vivid today as it was 30 years ago. It’s the weirdest things that trigger the memory; the smell of gravy, the sound of a shovel piercing through fresh earth…
Most afternoons, my mother would call out over the fence to Mrs Tucker and obediently I would follow. I was always in the way whenever my mother was around and especially so at 4pm when her latest boyfriend would be about to arrive for a midweek sleep over. My fear and confusion would be washed away in a sea of iced vovo’s and milk the moment I stepped into the sanctuary of Mrs Tuckers home.
I would potter around the house with her, helping shell peas or mending her husband’s trousers and she would ask me about my day as if it was the most important information she’d ever heard. Every so often she would pull the old sheet off her piano and play for me. She would sit at her stool, apologising in advance, “I’m a little rusty,” she would always say, crack her knuckles and wince as she took one long sip of her warm sherry. With fingers poised, she would wait as if for some signal from above, and then she would start.
Her fingers would glide across the keys and I would stare, trance-like watching them. The music transported me to another time and place, far from my suburban prison. As she played, her eyes gleamed with the vibrancy of youth and her arthritic hands seemed suddenly cured. Then as abruptly as she started, she would stop, her eyes moist from the time and memory the music evoked.
One day my mum picked me up from school and we didn’t go home. I would sometimes dream that Mrs Tucker asked me to live with her and we lived together cosy in little fibro shack, without a worry in the world and a big garden at the front to display her prized Azalea’s.
I cried every night until I forgot to. Many years later I was reminded of my afternoons at Mrs Tucker’s house when at a party I heard the sound of neglected piano brought back to life by a man emboldened by one too many boutique beers. I’ve even been inspired to take lessons myself, determined to find the beauty she did in the music.
She’d be long gone now, but the memory of her music will always play in my heart.