Mrs. Carney’s house for piano lessons. I am eight years old and she, to me, is ancient. My bottom is sweaty from nervousness, and as I arise from the birch bench after my first half hour lesson – a stain.
Mrs. Carney’s crinkly grey eyes open wide in shock, or wonder, I’m not sure. My heart beats wildly; I feel I may faint. Though here, decades later, I know I’ve had no such experience, so why would I have imagined that as a response? Books: stories and imaginings were my world.
Mrs. Carney rises mammoth like from her hard straight backed brown chair, ever so slowly, her bones creaking through the chill air of her basement teachers studio. My hazel eyes widen in anticipation, tears brimming at the edges, ready to pour from the pools within. Creakily, wordlessly, she exits the room.
I am left standing, staring blank eyed at my Leila Fletcher primer piano book on the upturned ledge and open keyboard. Have I been left? Am I to leave? Stay behind? I am holding my breath. Miraculously, the pool of tears have flowed backwards into the very deep dark pupil center of my eye. I finally breathe. In. Out. There’s a great rushing sound in my ears and my head feels as if I’ve a vast ocean inside.
The overhead light casts a strange luminous shadow over the birch bench and the stain my bottom etched on the surface has morphed into a wild, fast, fierce cheetah. I watch as this miraculous beast stretches, yawns, stares right at me with her golden eyes – then leaps at me off the bench.
A scream erupts from my eight year old lungs. Am I really in the basement studio on the corner of Elm and 49th in Vancouver, B.C.? Have I been transported through time to the jungles of Africa?
I close my eyes. Hold my breath. Curious, yet brave, at the same time.
“Sharon dear, are you quite all right?”
My ears soak in a soft, kind, gentle voice. Who is speaking?
Slowly, ever so hesitantly, opening my eyes, there before me, Mrs. Carney. Not really so ancient. Eyes warm, intent. A curious look upon her face. A golden, black, brown and yellow blanket laid across the bench.
“Shall we get back to our lesson? You’re doing so well.”