November 22, 2010


It was late afternoon, with darkness just arriving. The old man who tunes our piano arrived in a station wagon, driven by a friend. He used to come with his wife, but she died this year. Driving is not an option since he doesn’t see; he relies on his ears instead of his eyes. Together, he and his friend removed the front panel of the piano, and he began his work.

While he tuned the piano, he told stories about famous musicians he’s met. Apparently, if you’re famous enough, you can demand the kind of piano you want to play on – venues will rent a Steinway if you’re that famous — and it will be tuned right before your concert. Between stories, Piano Tuner hit keys and plucked at piano strings, listening intently, then adjusting the tuning pins. His friend sat in the comfy chair, reading quietly, and sometimes chiming in on the stories.

I’d explained to Little Biker Boy that he needed to be quiet while the piano tuner was here. He took his snack to the staircase and sat on the carpeted steps, peering out curiously at the men in the living room.

Before the piano tuner was done, With-a-Why arrived home from school, and so did Shaggy Hair Boy. My parents stopped over and joined my sons on the couch, all of them watching the piano tuner work. Piano Tuner and my father are the same age, and they began trading stories about local musicians they know.

“Go ahead and test out the piano,” Piano Tuner said when he was done. Shaggy Hair grabbed the nearest book of music – it happened to be the score to the Charlie Brown Christmas special — and began playing Oh Tannenbaum.

After the piano tuner and his friend left, my sons played for their grandparents. I sat on the steps with Little Biker Boy. He’s not a child who sits still very often, but he does love music. He leaned against me while we listened.

Little Biker Boy will be moving away in eight days. His mother doesn’t yet know where they are going. A rented apartment, maybe. Or perhaps a shelter. Their plans seem to change every time I talk to his mother.

I rubbed Little Biker Boy’s back and gave him a hug. “I love you,” he whispered. Through the railing came the notes of music as Shaggy Hair Boy played.


Songbird said...

Hugs to everyone.

Musey_Me said...

You and Little Biker Boy are lucky to have found each other. I hope he finds a way to let you know where he is (even though, I suspect, you'll make it your business to know even if he can't help!). It is undeniable that you are an extremely important person in his life. Hugs to all of you.

Lorianne said...

These recent posts about Biker Boy and Ponytail have been heartbreaking.

I've been listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack in my car: it's probably my favorite seasonal CDs. But it, too, has a strong streak of melancholy, just as you recently observed with "Away in the Manger."

Magpie said...

I hope they stay close enough that they get to see you a lot.

It's fascinating that there are so many blind piano tuners. A place I used to work used a blind tuner - he had a dog. He also had a blind piano tuner wife - she used a cane. I used to wonder about the state of their apartment. Once upon a time, blind people were encouraged in that direction - does it still happen?

jo(e) said...

Magpie: Tuning pianos makes sense as a profession for someone who can't see, since it relies on sound.

I've never met a piano tuner under the age of 60, though, so I don't have any sense of the demographics of younger piano tuners.

Sarah Sometimes said...

I wish you could just adopt those kids . . . Like everyone else, sending you hugs, enough to share with Ponytail and Little Biker Boy. And . . . this post is reminding me to make arrangements to have my piano tuned, in time for very special visitors in January. :)

Anonymous said...

I wish you could just adopt those kids, too.

Melissa Sarno said...

These stories about your little biker boy and ponytail leaving are so heartbreaking. I hope you will find a way to remain such a wonderful, positive influence in their lives.

Lomagirl said...

I don't know how old our piano tuner is, but he isn't blind. And our friend whoe used to tune the piano wasn't a professional, so probably can't count in the demographics.
I'm glad little biker boy is spending lots of time with you. I pray for their family.

susan said...

I've been thinking a lot about you and the neighbor kids. Hugs all around.

kathy a. said...

damn, i'm crying again.

i think it's a good sign that little neighbor boy loves the music, and that he was brave enough to say he loves you. he knows what a healthy house and family looks and feels like. and i think he probably has memorized your number.

AmpersandPrime said...

damn. I have no words.