There I Sat with a Dead Body, Reading, “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret”…

Posted by on February 16, 2012

(I will sooooo be dating myself in this post…)

I used to play with Dawn dolls when I was a little girl. These were dolls about half the size of Barbie dolls and just as glamorous. I had cases bulging full of these dolls along with all the clothes and accessories ever made to go with them.

My favorite scenarios to have my Dawn dolls in was to have them finding true love on “The Love Boat” (sigh…Dr. Bricker…) or discovering that unicorns are really real on “Fantasy Island”. The cabins on the ship and the bungalows on the island were always played in the “cubbies” under our Steinway and Sons baby grand piano. I would sit there for hours, all my doll stuff scattered under the piano in little piles.

Another one of my father’s many talents was playing that beautiful, shiny black instrument. His long, graceful fingers danced on the keys, putting together the notes with as much precision and love as Chopin and Mozart, Liszt and Beethoven and all the other Masters had probably shown. The passionate sounds of his music lulled me to sleep every night.

On the ledge above the keys, above the roll-down cover, are three sets of bite marks. Bite marks made by MY teeth.

Dad tried desperately to teach me how to play. He showed me the proper finger and wrists positions, tried to teach me about timing and how to read music. Those bite marks are proof of my utter frustration at my failure. The only piece of music I ever mastered was “The Windmills of Your Mind” from the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair”, (I have no idea where I even got the music for that – it certainly was NOT something my father would have played).

So, my father did the next best thing – he hired me a private piano teacher – Mr. F. Surely I would learn from him.

Mr. F was an elderly man in his mid-90’s. He would greet me warmly at the door to his brownstone – where my parents would drop me off every Tuesday at 6pm – dressed in his signature burgundy velvet smoking jacket.

Leading me to an enormous side room where his spectacular concert grand Steinway took center stage, he would settle his frail body into an over-stuffed, high-back chair while I nervously sat at the very edge of the hard wooden bench in front of the ivory keys. All the while, the lectures regarding hand positions chanted through my brain as the metronome clicked away to it’s measured beat – ticking away the minutes until I could go home and use our Steinway for what it was intended to really be – a cruise ship.

After going over my progress from the week before (generally none to minimal), Mr. F would show me something a bit more complicated, both of us knowing that the only reason I was there was because of my parents and no real progress would be occurring that evening or the upcoming week.

It was usually around this time that Mr. F’s housekeeper would gently knock on the door and bring in a silver tray with a cup of steaming tea and a shot of something amber colored. He would drink both and, like clockwork, fall asleep. Sometimes I would even stop playing and pull out a Judy Blume book from my bag to read instead.

Often times, so soundly did he sleep that he never even knew our lesson was over and I had left.

And so our Tuesday evening ritual continued, that is, until the class when he died on me. Just fell asleep after his tea and shot of whatever and never woke up. There I sat with a dead body, reading, “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret”.

The piano will stay at my Mom’s until we find our PERFECT house in Myrtle Beach, it’s too much of a pain to move it over and over. I don’t suspect it will be TOOOO long before we find that house, though. Randi and Mike’s date to the wine-tasting fund-raiser didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. Apparently they are better off as business friends than romantic friends. At least this will give her more time to help me find a house.

Today I have been playing nurse to four out of my five daughters, and since we homeschool…there’s no such thing as a day off. Ever. And I LOVE it that way. Although I could deal with the girls being just a little less cranky…

So, while the girls are ALL sleeping soundly for the moment, I am going to take a sanity break with some zinfandel and maybe even treat myself to a hot bubble bath. And pretend I’m on the Love Boat…with Dr. Bricker….with “The Windmills of Your Mind” playing in my mind.

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35 Responses to There I Sat with a Dead Body, Reading, “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret”…

  1. Piyali

    Loved it! Enjoy your quiet time:)!

  2. ifiwerebraveblog

    Oh my goodness! What happened then? Were you the one to realize he had died?

  3. NanaDoll

    Loved it–don’t remember dawn dolls but the rest I do remember–happy house hunting 🙂

  4. Kim Terry

    Loved it! Having the space (and the money) for a grand piano is an item on my “bucket list”.

    • NorthernChicky

      I highly recommend it, Kim! It’s a great investment and I have such wonderful memories of it.

  5. Kim Terry

    Your doll scenarios remind me of the weddings that a friend and I used to hold for our Barbies. Quite elaborate, with my singing as one of them came down the “aisle”. Very solemn, until her grandmother would traipse through the livingroom and sing, “Here comes the bride…big, fat, and wide, doggone her hide, she oughtta died when she lied….”. Wish I had a recording of her voice. 🙂

  6. Emily

    My piano lessons were never that interesting. I hated piano and would so much rather have been reading Judy Blume. I loved her books as a kid! That was quite an experience you had!!

    • NorthernChicky

      It was indeed…and as you could probably tell, I would have rather been reading than taking those lessons, as well.

  7. Fawn

    I have played the piano for many years (or decades to be precise). It is something that, like your father, speaks to my soul. My children have fond memories of me playing them to sleep. I have fond memories of working out my frustrations on difficult, loud and rythmic pieces and ending with the soft relaxing pieces.

    I kept my doll house on top of my 1914 upright grand. It is huge (full brass harp & weighs about 500 lbs) and happily residing in my daughter’s apartment. My girls would stand on chairs to play in the doll house while my boys would run cars around the floor underneath (and occasionally up and down the keys — angry mom!).

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful memories.

  8. strongandcute

    I remember Dawn dolls! Yep, I had them too – lots of them. And Judy Blume books. How would we have grown up without them?????

    I took lessons as a kid and also never practiced. I just wasn’t into it, nor was I as talented as my sister, who did diligently work on her pieces. Anyhow, I wound up inheriting my aunt T-Ann’s Steinway Baby Grand – basically because no one else in the family had room for it. Back to taking lessons, this time including the kids. I have never heard more beautiful sounds coming from that magnificent piano. Too bad I wasn’t the one making them. I knew I wasn’t doing it justice. Lets just say, a lot of notes, no music. I did practice and would feel my brain crackling with new neural connections afterwards. It just made me tired.

    Turns out, my 2nd cousin developed a love of music AFTER I got the piano. I was blown away when he visited and played that Steinway like nobody’s business. Just natural talent oozing from his fingers. I wound up giving it to him, so no he’s playing his grandmother’s piano.

    • NorthernChicky

      They sure do produce beautiful music in the hands of someone who knows how to play them (sadly, I am not one of them…lol).

  9. Kelly Lucia

    Your title is AWESOME.

    My husband can play (literally) two dozen instruments proficiently. I sing. I also clap. That is the extent of my musical talent — so I really, really enjoyed this one.

  10. Tess Kann

    I LOVE baby grands but Grands are even better. Ahhh.

  11. Linda Vernon

    Charming and fresh and not surprisingly I have never read a story quite like it. Loved it. Did you ever learn to play the cruise ship? Oh and picture too! The whole thing is just so very satisfying Vicky!

    • NorthernChicky

      I never did master it, but sure did enjoy listening to my Daddy as he clearly did. I am glad you enjoyed the post, Linda!

  12. cammie

    Oh, I had a bunch of Dawn dolls, loved them way more than Barbie! But I took organ lessons instead of piano…SO much dorkier…

    • NorthernChicky

      LOL…hadn’t heard the word “dorkier” in a bit…too funny!

  13. DarcsFalcon

    How creepy to know you’d been sitting there with a dead body!

    I had Dawn dolls too. I loved them. I made them into daughters for my Barbies. 🙂

  14. Jo

    At around age 12/13, I decided I wanted to play the trumpet. I only did it to be contrary – all the other girls played violin. Every week I took the trumpet home and it stayed in its case – my teacher, who had a beard with food stuck in it, had to drool into the valves at the start of every lesson because they got all jammed up. I didn’t have much interest and absolutely zero talent, but it was the drool that did for me.

    • NorthernChicky

      Eeeeeewwwwwww…..I may never look at a trumpet quite the same way again….lol. Thanks for sharing though, Jo!

  15. Travis

    Good story. You have a great talent for writing.

  16. Sharron

    Great story! Brings back a lot of memories. I remember being “kicked out” of one piano lesson for not having my scales down and having to sit on my teacher’s front porch until my mom came back to retrieve me. I was so traumatized by the experience that I begged her to find another teacher. Long story short, I ended up majoring in piano as an undergrad. One of my goals is to find more time to play. I am sooooooo rusty now.

    • NorthernChicky

      Oh. no! Sounds like neither of us had the greatest of experiences with our lessons.

  17. Jennifer

    How traumatic, but what a great story! And I think pretending the piano is The Love Boat is an excellent use for the baby grand! 🙂

  18. foggygrandma

    Great story I loved that book

  19. Genevieve

    I wonder if the Dawn doll was anything like the Sunshine Family – I had them! They were a bit smaller than Barbie. I also had the Jamie Sommers doll, who was slightly bigger than the Barbie dolls. She had to wear Cher’s clothes, because they were the only ones that fit her. I was always upset by this, because Jamie Sommers wouldn’t be caught dead in Cher’s glamorous clothing. LOL

    How horrifying that he died with you in the room – thank goodness you didn’t realize it! I’ll never forget reading all those Judy Blume books – including sneaking out on the kickball field with the 6th grade girls who somehow got ahold of a copy of “Forever” and had highlighted all the racy parts. Aaah. Memories!

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