A New Song

September 4, 2009 | 20 comments

Little fingers rest on these keys for the first time. She taps out first notes, as the teacher gently leads, like a metronome:

“Quarter. Quarter. Ha-alf note. Quarter. Quarter. Ha-alf note.”

As Lydia uncovers the music, I wonder what parts of herself she’ll discover in the song.

“Ha-alf note. Ha-alf note. Quarter. Quarter. Quarter.”
She learned just five notes today, at her very first piano lesson.

And I’m standing behind her as she’s playing her first song. And I’m thinking about these keys, and how they can unlock stories in people.

She taps slender fingers
on ivory keys
and an old song within me stirs

like a flood
of concertos, minuets
and a Chopsticks duet
on a shared piano bench with my friend
And our feet were dangling
(too short to touch the pedals)

And my fingers
remember notes
of songs I played
wearing that Strawberry Shortcake dress
I see Grandpa again
dancing with his cane in the doorway
while I tap out
“King of the Road.”

Memories swirl with melodies
and the soundtrack
of my life floods my soul
My heart quickens
and I remember:
“It’s in her blood.”

Her Grandma Lee taught music, as she moved that beast of a piano from classroom to classroom on a cart in the 1960s.

And her Great-Grandma Taylor played piano during the silent movies in the 1920s — adagio, or allegro or fortissimo at just the right time. She didn’t stop playing until she was 84 years old, when she sat at the organ for the last time on a Sunday morning in that southern Iowa church.

And there were others, like great-great-great Grandpa Wallace, a music professor who would take a melodeon in a cart pulled by horses so he could offer music lessons to country folks.

Life unfolded around our pianos.

When sisters Juliann or Lynda came home from college. I’d beg them, ple-eease sit by me on the bench! Big sister would play the right hand, while I’d play the left — dramatically plunking the keys like professional pianists. We’d throw heads back in laughter, then have to stop because we couldn’t see through the Joy-Tears.

And I remember our friends from Brazil, who came to visit every few years. They spoke Portuguese; we spoke English. But it was there, ’round that piano, where we’d transcend a language barrier.

The song has been playing a long time, and now it rests here at the tips of these little fingers. And I wonder what part of her will be made here, in front of black and white keys. Thirty years from now, when she hovers behind her own child who sits on the bench for the first time, what Melody-Memory will sing inside of her?

For in this life, it’s not been about whether we play it perfectly
or whether we hit the right notes
or whether we can even recognize the tune.
It’s about making music and finding joy in the life-song.

Photos: Lydia’s first lesson. …

Grandma Taylor’s old sheet music and a Cokesbury Worship Hymnal, which have a home on my piano. Nearby, a framed photograph of my mom at her prom, sitting on the piano bench at the old Taylor farmhouse.

In memory of Grandma Taylor, who would have been 98 years old today. Mom wrote me: “Whatever she’s doing, she is celebrating something.” … Yes, Mom, and no doubt, there’s a piano involved. Miss you Granny T.

by | September 4, 2009 | 20 comments


  1. RCUBEs

    Not only it is a beautiful tribute to your grandma T. but it is very inspiring story that I'm glad you shared with us. That would be interesting to see how your child would be like after many years, as your grandma T.'s passion got passed on, generation to generation…You're right…In this life, it's about making music and finding joy…Beautifully written. God bless.

  2. Denise @ A Sacred Longing

    I remember growing up with an old upright piano. I never took lessons, only my sister did. Needless to say, my pounding of the keys truly sounded a sledge hammer, I imagine. To me, however, it was absolutely beautiful. :o)

    A lovely melody of memories.


  3. Beth E.

    I had an upright piano when I was growing up. My sister and I took lessons. I hated practicing the piano…and recitals….and playing for people. I've never been comfortable performing in front of anyone. But, I do enjoy being able to sit down and play a song for myself!

    A great post, and lovely tribute to your grandmother. What a legacy!

  4. Jennifer

    So neat the the passion for the piano passed through the generations. How excited she must have been for her first lesson!! Love the little family treasures you have by your piano!

  5. Kristi L

    What a great post! ~ Music has been a huge part of our family for generations too (my mom still has actual civil war era sheet music from my Grandma Jones) Singing around a piano with my "Jones" & "Larsen" families at get-togethers are memories that I will forever cherish.
    Sept 4 is special to me too ~ your Grandma and my son share the same birthdate!

  6. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    I began piano lessons when I was 5 and this brought back many memories!

    I am so thankful that my mother instilled that in me as I now play the flute during praise and worship at church which grew from my love of music!

  7. Kee

    Jennifer, this post is so beautiful. And I love

    "For in this life, it's not been about whether we play it perfectly
    or whether we hit the right notes
    or whether we can even recognize the tune.
    It's about making music and finding joy in the life-song"

    I have got to write that down and learn to live it everyday and to pass it on to my children.

    Have a great weekend my friend.

  8. Steve

    What a joy to hear this, and see it. My prayer is that someday, God will use your child for His glory. I go to a church where our piano player shot herself, and died. Has for now we don't have one, please pray that the Lord will sent us one. Its a long story about her or I'd tell it. Thanks for the post, it brought tears of joy to me. May God bless

  9. Jennifer

    I love the passing down of music to your children. My mother passed piano-playing down to me, something my children even love me to do just so they can sing along. Good Memories of making a joyful noise.

  10. Faith Imagined

    What a wonderful family tradition!

  11. Warren Baldwin

    Neat post. What a wonderful family tradition. What you said about meeting around the piano (people who speak different langauges) made me think of meeting around the table. No matter what language we speak, we all recognize the warmth of good music and the hospitality of shared food. Like the beauty of the heavens, they are an international language.

  12. Doug Spurling


    Wow. I have been out of blogger world for a few days so I just read your last few posts. I have to tell you, after reading this post and the posts about building a house of prayer, I feel like I've been with Jesus. Beautiful. I hope it's alright but without thinking I sent a link to our church.

  13. Linda Worden

    Thanks for sharing your sweet memories and your future dreams. My family loves music also and it's a wonderful way to experience Jesus' love and bond with those we love.

  14. Runner Mom

    How precious! I remember taking piano from a darling 80 year old, Mrs. Mobley. I was so excited the day I FINALLY got my first piece of sheet music!!

    Know that your wonderful great grandmother is still making music in Heaven!

  15. cindy

    Playing the piano is one of my dreams. My mom played in the small country church her family attended. It is too late for me to pass this on to Jennifer, but maybe I can still learn and pass this on to my granddaughter, Riley.
    Riley is only 6 months so I still have some time.
    It is wonderful that you are passing this gift along to your daughters.

  16. cindy

    Just to add..what a wonderful tribute to your grandma.

  17. Shayla


    Your family's musical history is AMAZING…I'm so glad that yall are continuing it through the generations!!! What a Blessing 🙂

  18. Angie Vik

    I know Taylor is a common name, but that was my maiden name. I have a Grandma Taylor too. (or did.) Wouldn't it be cool if we were related?

  19. Elizabeth

    Very cool. I started piano lessons in 2nd grade. Now the old upright piano that my parents bought used so I could take lessons sits in my spare room. Sticky untuned keys and all.

    It was so fun to meet you this weekend! Enjoyed your presence on our tarp!

  20. Julia C

    wow. I must follow this blog. love all your topics! beautifully written.


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