My favorite childhood Christmas memory involves a very specific time and place. My parents were the world, and they were also still together. They always did their best to make Christmas entirely magical for me, even during my post-Santa revelation years.
From the time I was able, I always wanted to write: stories, poems, and eventually even songs. While I struggled with other subjects, English as a language and music as an art became forms of extremely natural expression.
My parents and teachers actively encouraged my love of music and my singing ability. At school, I participated in the choir and my teachers allowed me to play the piano. While I did not yet have formal lessons, they explained that learning the piano is a great way to help compose music and to accompany a singing voice. After I started composing at school, one of my music teachers recognized that I had relative pitch and could play by ear.
While I continued to excel in my studies of writing, music supplemented those abilities. I started to understand that adding music to words could emphasize and illustrate the meaning of those words.
When it came time to make a Christmas list, I wanted one thing: a keyboard. My friend Katy had a keyboard-it made lots of different sounds in addition to a realistic piano noise. I really enjoyed going over her house and making music. I promised to care for the keyboard and to practice regularly, especially if I was someday able to get lessons.
This particular Christmas, I was very disappointed. I came downstairs hoping to find a large package or an unwrapped keyboard and stand with a bow-but there was nothing large enough to be a keyboard. I attempted to hide my disappointment as I opened other gifts, which I also liked. Many of the other gifts involved music, such as CDs of my favorite artists.
When I was nearly done, my mother handed me one last package. Before she let me take it, she asked, “Are you disappointed that you didn’t get the keyboard?” I tried to be diplomatic. “Well, it would have been nice,” I replied, “Maybe next year, or maybe for my birthday.”
I unwrapped the final gift. I was told this gift was extremely special and something my parents worked very hard to get for me. It was a box about the size of a piece of paper, wrapped in sparkly silver stuff with a bow. It was extremely light. There was no way a keyboard could fit in that box. Shaking it, it didn’t sound like anything was even there.
The box looked empty, but contained tissue paper which matched the color of the snow-covered ground outside. Within the box was a picture printed on thick stock paper. It as a photo of a cherry wood piano with curving legs and a matching bench and perfectly white keys. Underneath the photo was the name of the brand: Baldwin. My eyes widened.
“Why did you give me a picture of a piano?”
“It’s your piano,” my mother explained. “They could not deliver it on Christmas Eve, but it will be here on Monday.”
I started jumping up and down out of excitement, and then called my grandparents-who of course already knew. They were very pleased to hear the excitement in my voice.
The piano arrived on Monday. I received lessons and began seriously composing on my own. I performed in school musicals and at school assemblies, and then in cafes. The performances helped me make friends outside of school and bolstered my confidence. For the first time, I earned respect for a talent other than my writing-a talent I still treasured, yet feared was my only ability.
I went on to major in English in college, where I also received a minor in voice.
At this time, I make my living in part due to my musical education, which continued as a result of my supportive parents. I am able to write about music, whether I’m interviewing bands, doing press, covering concerts, LARPing, or writing promotional material for them.