Home > Bitching, Fun Childhood, Illness, My Mom, Ohio, Piano, Strange, Traumatic Childhood > The Time I Had a Bizarre Piano Teacher

The Time I Had a Bizarre Piano Teacher

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

My mom forced me into piano lessons starting at the age of six, gruffly insisting that, “You’ll thank me for this later.”

Years of torturous practicing followed, though I was only required to pound the keys for 30 minutes each day. But to a child, this seemed interminable, a purgatory of Yankee Doodle Dandy and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. An egg timer was affixed to the top of the piano, which would tick down the minutes with infinite slowness before rattling the house with a high-pitched screech that signaled that I was deliciously, gloriously FREE.

However, I learned at a fairly young age that my mom never paid attention to how long I actually practiced, as long as I didn’t stop before the timer went off. So after a few minutes of sullen playing, I’d wind the timer down to ten minutes or less, gaining freedom long before the required half an hour.

Anyway, I had a series of piano teachers throughout my youth, each with different styles and none ever teaching me how to play my scales. To this day, I couldn’t play an E-flat scale if you put a gun to my head. Is that the key where the E and B keys are flats? Who knows.

My first teacher was a tall, gaunt woman by the name of Ms. Smith. Her skin was pale to the point of being translucent, and she dressed just like Chloë Sevigny’s character in Big Love. The rounded, swept-back bouffant hair, the floor-length house dress, the pilgrim-buckle shoes; she was the whole package. her attitude towards the piano was no-nonsense and strict, though she always stuck copious amount of stickers all over my practice books. “Busy as a Bee!” a fuzzy bee-shaped one would declare. “Beary good job!” said a pink bear who smelled faintly of strawberries.

But these cheery stickers couldn’t ward off the gloom I felt in Ms. Smith’s house. It was dim and stuffy, with hand-made doilies dangling off furniture encased in stiff plastic. The thick layer of dust coating everything made the house look like it had been untouched since the 1950s. Then there was the matter of the young girl.

I only spotted her a few times, and though her presence was a mystery to me, my mom eventually came up with her own theories. The girl was quite young, perhaps 18 at the oldest, and was apparently confined to the bedroom, at least during all my visits. My brief glimpses of her revealed a painfully skinny girl with stringy hair, over-sized clothing, and a perpetual look of anxiety. When I once asked Ms. Smith who she was, and if she was her daughter, she gave a sniff and replied, “No, she is not related to me.” She would never address the subject again over the years, though the strange girl remained.

My mom later hinted that she suspected the girl was Ms. Smith’s lesbian lover, though I had no idea what a lesbian was at the time, and so thought that it was like having a playmate who lived with you. Perhaps not so far from the truth, though the sexual implications were lost on me until years later.

I remember vividly what finally ended our lessons together. My mom had driven me to Ms. Smith’s house as usual, though I had a raging migraine at the time. My mom, knowing how much I hated these lessons, figured I was playing sick, and so ignored my pleas. But this was one of those few times when I really was ill, and as soon as I arrived at the house, I projectile vomited all over the sidewalk and front porch of Ms. Smith’s house. I remember it coming out like a fire hose, ejecting out my nose with such force that I got a nosebleed. Ms. Smith emerged, gaped at the slowly spreading pile of vomit and blood at her feet, and ordered us to leave. Immediately.

I got a different teacher after that, and though she sadly never gave me any stickers, she also didn’t keep possibly underage girls prisoner. So I guess it was a wash.

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