Every now and then you come across something that brings back memories of your youth. Sometimes the memory is short lived and makes you smile, like the Potato Candy that popped into my head while eating a baked potato a couple weeks ago. Something my mother used to make when we were kids. Often you come across a memory you don’t really want to remember like that time you got your finger stuck in the car door or even worse, the time you put a Lawn Dart through your foot right after you were told to be careful. Those eventually got banned, see story here.
But sometimes you come across something that hits you like a runaway train, a memory so strong, one that brings back extreme emotions that stopping to think about it could take several hours.
A few days ago, my wife texted me to let me know that her parents were ‘cleaning house’ and wanted to get rid of the piano. Now this was no ordinary piano, it was an old upright model that was owned by my grandparents who lived in Haileybury, Ontario.
Every summer going back as far as I can remember, we made the long trek to Haileybury. “Are we there yet?” was muttered a few times. The trip, by car, took about eight hours, usually in a jam packed station wagon. My older brother always got to sit up front, something about car sickness – my sister and I thought that was a scam. I usually sat in the middle row with my mom and we’d have these epic ‘tickling’ battles. My sister did whatever young girls do at that age in the back, rear-facing seat. There was a younger brother as well but I think he was post-station wagon.
Upon arriving at my grandparents we’d all run off in different directions but eventually congregate at my grandparents to say hello. Being french Canadian we called them MaMere and PaPere. Our grandmother would usher us into the kitchen to have a piece of her famous, chocolate covered, Rice Krispy squares. It didn’t matter what time of year we went, or what hour of day we wandered into the kitchen, there was always a tray of them in the lower left-hand cupboard. After that ritual we’d go say hi to PaPere who would sit us on his lap, in his pipe-smoking chair. We all loved the pipe collection and smell – the term ‘second-hand’ smoke hadn’t been invented yet. He’d reach into his pocket for a lint-covered mint to share with us. We loved it! There was a bag of mints in the cupboard but they weren’t the same without that special lint.
Eventually we were free to do whatever we wanted while the parents did old people stuff. That’s when we all raced to the piano…
We didn’t care so much about the old piano, none of us knew how to play, but that stool was a beacon of fun in a house full of the usual knick knacks that grandparents collect and kids don’t much care about. The stool was dark wood, had metal feet and a seat that spun free and silent. It didn’t stop there though, the seat was on a threaded rod. Spin it one way, it went up, the other way, you guessed it, down. The freakish thing is that it would never stop spinning and would never fall off… a true feat of engineering. Not even the Apollo program could rival this stool.
The first one there got to sit or lay on the round seat while the other two spun until we got thrown off or sick, whichever came first. I’m pretty sure my older brother participated in this ritual and I’m equally sure that anyone who was prone to ‘car sickness’ would want to avoid this ride. Once done, we’d start over again. Eventually my Aunt came in, who did play that piano, to chase us off.
When my grandparents passed away and the contents of the house were divided amongst the children, my family got the piano and stool. My parents grew tired of it and the piano went to my older brother who probably wanted to spin on the stool a few more times. He moved out East and the piano ended up at my in-laws (where a lot of things end up), who hated to see the thing leave the family, even though it wasn’t their family. My mother-in-law had dreams of playing and bought some books. I don’t know that she ever did play but I’d like to think she took a spin or two on that stool. It’s many years later now and like all things big and heavy, it has to go. I hope it brings lots of joy and good music to whoever ends up with it.
BUT… they aren’t getting that stool!