Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Practical Gifts

photo from

Back when we were dating and having those get-to-know you conversations Allen asked me if there was anything I wished I could have done in my life, but hadn't. My answer came easily: I never learned to play the piano. It was a dream I had since given up on and I was okay with that now, but I was still fascinated by those who could flawlessly tickle the ivories and produce beautiful music.

A few Christmases after we were married Allen suggested that we be a bit frivolous and buy each other something more pricey and unpractical than we normally would. This came as a surprise because our gifts to this point were always something practical. Things like car parts and needed clothing. I immediately knew what I wanted to buy him but could not keep it a secret because he would have to be sized - a pair of skis and ski boots. I personally held NO love for attempting to balance myself upon two narrow sticks while barreling down a snow-packed mountain but I knew that it was something he would enjoy owning and something we would likely never purchase otherwise.

As Christmas approached he would drop hints about my gift, but nothing which gave it away. In fact, I was thoroughly convinced that I was getting a deep-freezer and tried to be excited about it.

Christmas morning came and we went to his sister's house to celebrate with his family. There my gift sat in the front room, larger than life among the smaller gifts scattered around the tree. My guesses were confirmed - something that large could only be what I had imagined. I kept telling myself that it would be great to have a place to store lots of ice cream despite my slight disappointment that my gift was once again something practical.

When I opened the box, I was shocked to see it - a piano! He reminded me of our conversation a few years back and told me that we would both be taking lessons and learning to play. I was in shock... it was the most thoughtful, beautiful gift I had ever received. And completely unpractical! I loved it.

We did attempt lessons for a while, but with small children underfoot and Allen in school we eventually had to change our plans. I resigned myself to the idea that I could look forward to the day when my own kids could help the piano to sing.

Fast forward a few years, when my oldest turned 8. He started lessons and seemed to pick things up fairly quickly but he refused to practice. We were up in arms with each other for almost a full year but eventually I could no longer justify the cost of the lessons if he would not do his part. I wondered if my piano would ever produce the music that I dreamed of hearing in my home.

This brings me to today. As I write this post, my 5 oldest kids (even my oldest boy who eventually learned the benefit of having a musical talent) are taking their turns practicing on my piano. The oldest 3 can play some of my favorite songs, and they often do. It is such a thrill to hear how they have progressed over the years, from Pop Goes The Weasel to Fur Elise to some of my favorite songs from the radio, musicals and our church hymnal.

It turns out that my most favorite gift, one that I saw at the time as magnificently unpractical, has turned out to be the most practical gift of all - and it is a gift which keeps on giving. It has given my children the gift of learning the benefits of practicing and sticking to something. It has given them the ability to gain a talent which can benefit our home as well as others. The best gift of all, however, is the gift I have been given - my home is filled with the music that I could never produce myself. Instead I produced children who, in time, have shared their gifts with me.

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