I’m breaking into Hannah’s house to play the piano. The birds are my cover- singing over the sound of scrabbling locks and creaking doors. Aro Valley is bathed in dusk light. It’s summer in New Zealand. I’m hungry for music and solitude, and here they both are. And by chance, poised on the piano, is the perfect book- the very same Chopin Valses that I inherited from my Nanna. Just like hers’ it’s almost falling apart, beautiful lines on fragile pages, just about hanging together.
Don’t worry, I’m not really breaking in. My dear friend Hannah told me to help myself to the spare keys “somewhere outside”. Back in December I took some time out to travel to New Zealand with my little family. It was time to slow down, to spend time with our family here, for Joy to play with her cousins, pick up a cracking kiwi accent, and get to know her Great-Grandpa. Just to be and to live. But as wonderful as anyone’s in-laws can be, I was hungry for solitude and a piano.
The next morning I return and Hannah’s back in town. We catch up over black coffee then I continue to practice while she takes a bath. She tells me that Liszt stole all the girls, leaving Chopin devastated. Party after party he’d return home, rejected by a new love once again, to write these Walzes to which he’d have no dance partner for. Poor Chopin!
I collect Joy from her Grandma and Great-Grandpa Bernard. Four generations report on their morning; general temperament, snacks had, I hum the piece I’ve been learning and Bernard sings the next line, he knows it well. The threads converge across generations and continents; between my Nanna learning this piece in Nairobi, to our piano in Brighton, to the great grandfather of my daughter.