Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not a Sound From the Pavement

Before my wife and I were married, she told me this heroic story about her father, and how while he was serving in Vietnam, he narrowly escaped being blown up at some munitions compound.

Then, sometime later, as we were sitting with her parents talking about whatever we talked about back then, and my wife brought this story up. As it turns out, she had a few itsy-bitsy details messed up, and he didn't narrowly escape. He wasn't even on duty at the time, and no one was hurt.

It seems that our minds like to fill in details to a story to make it more exciting, or at least make us feel more important than we really are.

That would be me. Mr. Important. Or not, as it turned out.

See, here's the thing. I play the piano. I started lessons when I was five, and continued through most of high school. I got to be quite good. Well, at classical pieces, anyhow. So good, in fact, that I went to Festival one year and played a piece by Mozart...Sonata in C I believe it was...and was told by the judge that I had the best grasp of interpretting Mozart he had ever seen.

It was a proud moment. And yes, that part of my memory is quite true.

In the coming year or so, my piano teacher challenged me with new things, until one day she told me that I had learned everything she could teach me, and there was little point in taking lessons from her. I was ecstatic to think I had reached such a stage.

And then, I went to the subsequent Festival playing yet another piece by Mozart, originally picked out by my piano teacher. Fantasia in D minor, or something like that. I loved that song, but was disappointed when, while my performance was excellent, the same judge that I had the previous year told me that I really needed to work on my interpretation of Mozart, because I had taken far too many liberties with it.

And I had. I knew I had. Frankly, the stylistic decisions that Mozart had jotted down for the song weren't right, in my mind. So I spiced it up a bit. While I played every note as written, I had my fun with tempos and interpretation.

No biggie. All that is true, too.

And for years afterwards, even after I had moved, and lost my piano, I would tell people the story about how I had become so good that my piano teacher felt I didn't need her any longer.

Then, a few years ago, my piano teacher came to a program at my church. I forget what it was, but afterwards we had a nice time catching up.

And the truth was revealed. I was never as good as I thought I was. No, it seems my teacher's decision to break our ties had nothing to do with my advanced abilities, and everything to do with the fact that I wasn't listening to her. Sonata in C? Great interpretation because I actually listened to her. Fantasia? Well, I stopped listening. I decided it was time to be "creative" the point that her advice fell on deaf ears.

This was all news to me, and I was devastated. Well, okay, I found it vaguely humorous, though somewhat surprising. All this time I had convinced myself that had I not moved and lost my piano, I could have been the next Horowitz or something.

But no. I was just a schmuck who wouldn't follow directions.

Funny the kinds of things the memory creates...including an inflated ego.

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