It has come down to this: the piano. A Knabe baby grand that we bought for our daughter when she was 10 years old and an aspiring pianist. When she played--a Mozart divertimento, a Bach fugue, a Szymanowski song--the gorgeous sounds filled every corner of the house.
As we downsize and purge our belongings -- as paterfamilias and I ready ourselves for a move to a 2-bedroom apartment--a lot of our possessions aren't coming with us. The house itself and much that is in it are painful to lose but the fulcrum of that sense of loss--the touchstone of the collective memories of our family growing up together in this house--has become the piano.
Alpha daughter would take the piano if she could. But she can't. Her house is too small. When she came home last weekend--in part to say goodbye to the house and to see which of her grandparents' or our possessions she might want--she agreed to our selling the piano. It is just too expensive to store for who knows how many years.
As we got that process underway, we shared with her an over-the-phone appraisal of our beloved musical instrument. It was quite modest: there's a glut of piano's on the market; baby grands and grands have almost no homes to welcome them. When Paterfamilias mentioned the possibility of a give-away--if we couldn't sell it--our daughter teared up. For her, the value of that piano was beyond a monetary one. She was shaken by the idea that we might be careless in handing off the piano to someone else. Who would love, cherish and play the piano with as much joy as she had--appreciate its stiff keyboard action and its splendid tone.
So here I am--three weeks from moving with listicle upon listicle of things we have to do to get ready--obsessing over what to do with the piano, waking up in the middle of the night wondering what will happen to it and will it happen on time. I feel sad at the thought of parting with it and the music our daughter made on it.
Why the obsession? In part because the piano means so much to our child. She has--and rightly so--chosen some meaningful items from the heaps of precious things my mother and mother-in-law had in their homes. I was ready to sell them. "We should keep them in the family," she said. By the time our grandchildren--or her or her brother's children--come of home-making age, they may be back in style. A few symbols of our grandparents' lives should stick around--even if it's in the storage space above Uber son"s garage, which is where the cut glass bowls and gold-rimmed bone china are headed.
But not the piano. It raises the question of how much we owe our children in terms of honoring the possessions they grew up with and grew to love--but can't take with them. The answer: A lot. We can't be negligent with these bases of shared memories.
Two days after her visit here, Alpha daughter called. She will take the piano. She will squeeze it into her dining room--a small room that nonetheless is almost half of her downstairs living space. It will be tight, even overwhelming. But she is overjoyed to have the piano in her house, to be able to feel its touch and hear its wondrous tone whenever she sits down to play.
There's a lump in my throat. I can't speak, except to say, this feels right and that I can't wait to visit her and hear the Knabe fill a house with music again.