In the early 70’s, she was ‘the picture’ of a 1930’s grandma. Everything about her look, her style was as if she had just stepped out of that era. Mrs. Fleming was probably in her 60’s when I met her. She was great, and she was my first piano teacher.
I remember how she would drive up in her old boat of a car, although I don’t remember the make and model. She was one of those older people who, at the time, was always dressed-up, always looking as if important company was coming over to the house for dinner. Her bifocal glasses, if not worn, were kept by beaded eyeglass holders that one just doesn’t see these days. Her purse was a ‘typical’ small black bag with a short crescent handle. She also wore a pearl necklace. Hair was always up and close to her head. Small curls, and I believe she would sometimes wear a hairnet. Essentially, she had sort of a Mrs. Claus look to her. Yes, that one, the picture of a 1930’s grandma.
I started taking piano lessons with Mrs. Fleming when I was 8 years old. I remember being in the third grade and how excited I was that my mom and dad had bought a real piano just for me and found someone to give me private lessons at home. It was awesome. About a year into my lessons my family moved to a different city. Mrs. Fleming made the move as well and still gave me lessons for 4 more years.
When I entered Junior High, I stopped taking lessons. I think I thought that I was too cool to play the piano or something. What I didn’t consider was how I would feel many years later about ‘quitting’ the piano. That’s what happened. Thinking that I would still play the piano and for some years did, but very infrequently. Like any other craft or talent, piano was no different. If I wasn’t practicing everyday, and I didn’t, my piano playing ability would falter, and it did. Never intentionally saying ‘I quit’, but quitting nonetheless and experiencing the same result. My ability became so rusty that I no longer felt at all comfortable sitting down in front of the keyboard.
Many years passed and I remember when in my early 30’s the desire to play had returned, and wishing I had never stopped. Had I continued to play my entire life I would have had over 20 years under my belt at the time. But I started to play anyway.
No longer with a piano to play, Irene purchased an electronic keyboard for me to play. The keys weren’t weighted but they were pressure sensitive. So if I pressed the key lightly the pitch would return a soft tone. Pressing a key with greater force would produce a louder tone. I pulled out my original piano books and started practicing all over again.
After consistent playing and taking the art of piano seriously, Irene bought me a digital piano for our 10th Wedding Anniversary. Weighted pressure sensitive keys on this black lacquer upright was just what I needed. I loved that piano and had it for 30 years before Irene bought me a Steinway grand.
I am still playing strong and have again been taking once a week private lessons for about 10 years now.
Throughout my years I wished that I had never cut ties with Mrs. Fleming, at least just to let her know how I was progressing, and that I still play. Mrs. Fleming is certainly long gone from life on this earth, but she is still remembered by this piano player.