Yesterday I played Christmas carols for a group at a nursing home. They gathered around the piano to sing along. Between songs, they chatted with me.
When I announced I’d be playing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Gail lamented, “Yeah, we wish.”
After “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” Cora informed me that many more than three Wise Men followed the Star of Bethlehem. For such a long trip, she explained, a larger number of travelers would have banded together.
I learn a lot from my audiences. And over the next few weeks, learning opportunities abound as I take on extra volunteer gigs: senior holiday parties, an open house, a memorial service.
So, while I prepare for all that, here’s a seasonal post from 2013, recounting the time I was upstaged by a Christmas tree…
The week after Thanksgiving, I arrived for my twice-monthly volunteer gig at an assisted living center. I headed for the dining room, where I play a neglected upright piano while the residents eat lunch. About halfway through my hour, I heard music tinkling nearby. I was confused. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” wafted into my right ear, but I was playing “It Had to Be You.” A moment later I realized why.
A little musical Christmas tree revolved in the center of a table a few feet from the piano. There sat four well-coiffed elderly diners, calmly eating their Salisbury steak. Theirs was the only table with a wind-up tree, so one of them likely brought the decoration herself to brighten the institutional setting. I struggled to pull my attention back to the keyboard, to concentrate on the melody beneath my fingers. I played a handful of wrong notes. Eventually my ceramic competitor slowed and stopped. Thankfully, no one opted for a partridge-in-a-pear-tree encore.
I continued my program and a short while later the four women silently filed past me to return to their rooms. As they left, I was distracted by the thought that one of them—seated close enough to touch the piano bench where I sat—reached out and wound up that tree, perhaps commenting companionably to her tablemates, “Let’s have a little music while we eat.”
Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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