There is gentle music playing. It is a rolling, lilting piano solo, faintly wrapped in a familiar hymn. It is coming from the room in my house that we call Egypt. We call it that because though it was once a narrow dining room, with the awkward addition of other rooms around it, it has become a very undefined space. Is it a hallway? A piano room? An office? No, for us it is Egypt. “Go put this in Egypt.” I say. “Go vacuum Egypt.” I say.
This evening Guy is playing the piano in Egypt. And it is beautiful.
I knew Guy in high school. Sort of, barely. We danced together once at a youth dance. We signed each other’s yearbooks, but that was about the extent of how well I knew the shy redhead that lived across town.
When I got home from my mission years later, I was asked to sing a song with my mom for church, and Guy was asked to play for us. I remember my mother squeezing my arm as we left his house that afternoon with a “He’s cute, what about him?” He was, and I admit that though I didn’t say as much to her, the thought of marrying a man who I could make music with was a very romantic notion. Little did I know his mother was on the other side of the door saying the same thing about me.
I have many, many memories that float within the accompaniment of Guy’s music, but I think my favorite are the ones that now blur together into one organic memory of sitting by his side at the piano bench, watching his fingers move across the keys in such a fluid way, his eyes following the many lines of music that somehow he keeps straight, and translating it all into gorgeous melodies. And when he makes a mistake, a soft “sheesh” sound, and often a “yikes!” comes out of him that makes me laugh. Sometimes I turn the pages for him, and sometimes I sing along, but always I am in awe of his ability.
When we were dating, I would lay on the couch near the piano and soon be asleep as I listened to him play. He used to think that meant I was bored by his music, but it was so peaceful and relaxing that I, who cannot fall asleep with a radio or a TV on, who can barely fall asleep when conditions are perfect, can melt into slumber when he plays. I guess in a way it is a tremendous compliment.
Guy took one year of piano lessons from his mother when he was a boy. After a while he decided he was done. As students came to his house for lessons, he thought to himself, “I can play that” as he listened. But at a certain point, some little girl came through who, though younger than he, had passed him up. He wouldn’t have it.
Guy returned to the piano, but this time he refused to allow his mother to teach him. He would practice, and if she came near him to correct him, he simply stood up, closed the piano and walked away. He spent the next dozen or more years teaching himself, ever improving.
I once hurt Guy’s feelings while he was playing. He was learning a new and very difficult song, and he was making a lot of mistakes. I said, “Sweetie, could you play something you know?” He stood up and shut the piano, and it was a long time before he would practice in front of me again.
I don’t exactly know why, but I love so much about what his process says about him. Guy is not militant in anything he does in this life, but his perseverance at this one thing is something I so much appreciate in him. I love that he did it all on his own, stubborn though he was (is) about it. I love that after his first ever performance, when he messed up tragically in front of a full audience, with all his peers actually laughing at him, that it was this stubborn streak that didn’t let him quit. I love that our children see him play and know what it means to put hours and hours into something so that you can do it well. I love that when I come home from being out a while, I can be sure to walk up our walk way and hear the old piano singing before I even reach the door. I love that nearly every time I perform a song for an audience, he is there, not supporting me just with his presence, but with his actual music.
And I love that the background music of our lives is the music he makes in Egypt.