My first teacher was my oldest sister. It didn't work out so well. The whole respect thing. I really didn't give her any. Because, well, she was just my sister. But she was a great pianist.
My third teacher (did you notice how I skipped the second teacher? That's because that's where the real story is. I'll get around to that in a minute.) was a nice lady. When we went to piano lessons at her house, it was a process. Both of my older sisters and a couple of our neighbors took lessons from her, so we all went to lessons together. One of my friends was the piano teacher's next door neighbor, so all I wanted to do was go over to Jesse's house and play. Forget piano. And we would jump on her trampoline and play tether ball while I was waiting for my sisters and neighbors to finish their lessons.
But my second teacher, oh my second teacher. Here's where it gets good. I have already confessed to my mom, so I feel like I can share this now without too many repercussions. I hope.
Anyway, Mrs Mix. She was my second piano teacher. I was eight years old. I don't even know how my mom found Mrs. Mix. She was the pianist / organist for a local church, I'm not sure what denomination-- in Rifle, Colorado. I've talked about Rifle before here, here, here, and here. I grew up there. It was a small town. Very cozy, hugged on all sides by friendly mountains that our family explored regularly.
My piano lessons from Mrs. Mix took place at her church. The church creeped me out. This church was dark and musty and as soon as I walked through the deeply stained, intricately carved wood doors with their substantial iron handles, the soaring ceilings seemed to press in on me. The towering, heavily-draped windows let in narrow beams of lazy light, that were choked out by the overwhelming haziness of the place.
I would walk down the aisle to the front of the church, past the pews, the carvings, the statues of an anguished Christ that were foreign to me. I could pick up the scent of ancient hymn books, resting on the cold, hard benches, patiently waiting for Sunday's congregation. My ears heard the voices of ghostly choirs and the organ pipes with their hauntingly silent melodies and goose bump-inducing absence.
The piano at which my lessons were taught was old, dark, smelled of damp wood. And the bench moaned when I shifted on it. Mrs. Mix sat beside me in a high-backed, ornately chiseled wooden chair, listening to my offering on the piano with which she was so familiar. My eight year old fingers clumsily danced across those keys, presenting the fruits of a week's practice as fast as they could so that I would not have to spend any more time in that place of worship than was absolutely necessary.
I dreaded Tuesdays. Tuesdays were piano lessons with Mrs. Mix at the church. My sisters didn't take lessons with me at the church and I was supposed to walk directly to the church by myself after school for my lesson.
Usually, I would enjoy a leisurely stroll home from school with my friend Mindy where we would typically stop by The Corner Store for a treat. But not on Tuesday. Tuesday was a sprint. A sprint to the church. I ran as fast as I could so that I could get to the church before Mrs. Mix. Because getting to the church before Mrs. Mix meant that I avoided entering the cold, damp church. I loved those Tuesdays that I rounded the corner and saw no orange Ford Bronco parked on the tree-lined street in front of the towering place of worship. Those were the days I secretly prayed for. Those lucky Tuesdays I would run home and tell my mom that Mrs. Mix never showed up for lessons.
I can't recall how long my lessons with Mrs. Mix lasted. But certainly long enough for that church to make an impression on an eight year old girl. But not long enough to turn me into a career sprinter.