Thursday, July 5, 2012

Belonging Still

For a long time, I had been looking for my beautiful piano teacher, Mrs. Lance. I went on exhaustive internet searches that came up empty. Her blue shingled house had been sold.  Her phone number no longer in service.  I had tracked people down on Facebook, students I had known but not really, kids at end-of-year recitals whose parents my mother would run into at the market while I stood bored and annoyed as they chatted.  I sent these strangers messages, do you know where she is?  The reply, always the same: No.  But I am wondering too.

A few weeks ago, I was in my parents home and I mentioned my search.  My father, in a that-reminds-me-moment, went into the other room and handed me a book.  He had found it while cleaning out the garage.  Weep No More My Lady by Mary Higgins Clark.  A tattered, yellowed cover, and on the inside, scrawled in pencil, J. Lance.  

I have no recollection of her loaning it to me.  I can not imagine that she meant for me to keep it, with the way her name had been so deliberately and proudly written, there was no doubt that the pages belonged to her.  When I find her, I'll give it back to her, I thought.

So the news, from my mother, that she had run into E. did I remember her?  And of course, I could not forget E. nearly six feet tall at thirteen years old with her wild hair and crooked glasses who played piano and sang songs she had composed herself, one strange song in particular, I Can Fly, which we always remembered because she sang it at the top of her lungs, soaring boldly and confidently to non-existent, off-key notes.  The news that my mother had run into her and learned that Mrs. Lance had died three years ago comes at me with such a strange and terrible pow.  The permanence of her disappearance just doesn't seem possible.

Her children took the piano, my mother told me.  And truly, this seemed like the most important information, the biggest reassurance, that the piano had not been snatched at some estate sale, had not been left on the street to be taken away.  That it belonged to them, to her, still.

I can think of no greater gift than music. Not the talent for it.  Not even the sound of it.  I mean, the love of it. To be shown that, given that, I am forever grateful.  


  1. It's not often you get a teacher who influences you so much. It's really sad that you weren't able to give Mrs Lance her book back.

  2. I can relate to all of that. It's good that you can remember her here.

  3. This touched me, Melissa. My own beloved piano teacher died a few years ago, and I didn’t find out until several months had passed. I wasn’t able to attend her memorial service, which saddened me, but I think of her everytime I sit down to play. So much of my life now is because of her ~ my husband and I met as teenagers in her basement, playing piano duets together. So not only my work, but my family stems directly from her presence in my life :)

  4. I love this piece - my mom is a piano teacher, and I grew up listening to piano lessons at 6 a.m. while I was getting ready for school, and every afternoon when I came home and studied. Your teacher sounds like a lovely person, and I'm sorry you didn't get to see her one last time. I hope you have a piano in your home to continue the beauty in your family.

  5. I heart you, Melissa....I did the same thing several years back with my junior high Pre Algebra teacher. I wanted to thank her for being tough on me and for teaching me so much. I believe she got me through college. Sadly, she had passed away from cancer a couple years before.... Teachers make a difference in people's lives and some times kids don't know it until they are grown up. (Maybe we should pitch a Chicken Soup book about teachers who have touched our lives???)

  6. I remember my piano teacher. I loved her, too, and remember when she passed away when I was in college. Thanks for sharing this, it is wonderful.