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.