Recently, I did a big house cleaning ridding some articles of furniture that used to be not in usual use. A digital piano had stood for years, allowing the dust to sit and occupying the space. Isn’t it a good idea to send it to people who can play in entertainment? Finally, the digital piano found itself somewhere.
Now, the layout of the living room has a new arrangement. A door that has been shut can be in use again. I smell the air flowing. My heart is unshackled. In recent years, the claustrophobic feeling was haunting. But it seems to have eased a lot. I wish myself that I enter a new phase of life. I dare say that what have been done is a step forward.
The Piano that claims memory
In 1995, after three years in separation from my wife and son, we reunited in Toronto. Our son continued schooling. The music class assigned homework and distributed a wood flute, the recorder, to practice rhythms and notes. He worked hard on the balcony.
One day, a Caucasian neighbour, who was known as a kite-making fan, came upstairs. He told us that he foresaw our son's gift in sensitively telling rhythms. He believed that our son had a keen ear on melody. He encouraged us to explore his potential. We were very touched with his visit. We discussed. Then, we had a talk with our son. He said that he desired to learn playing the piano. Certainly, we had to have a piano at the first place.
Buying a piano requires a budget of several thousand dollars. Twenty some years before, we came in a manner quite different from that of those mainland Chinese newcomers nowadays, who brought in thick savings.
Thanks to my wife, who had been working in Shenzhen for several years. She used to take charge of a dozen of assembly lines, saving up ten thousand Hong Kong dollars. For the sake of safety and security, however, we dared not to use the money rashly.
To develop the intellectual ability of our son is our irresistible duty! Otherwise, where did the motivation come for a middle-aged couple to bit a farewell toward a so-far-ever-in-dreaming hometown. We were determined that, since he desired to learn playing the piano, his desire could not be ignored.
We moved to run a project that the whole family pool up the fund to buy the piano. Our son was recruited onto the team. The three of us each hand out cash to pool up an amount every month after the piano was purchased on the family savings. We put it into a one-year plan. Our son was asked to make a chart to indicate the progress of pooling up, which was put up onto the wall.
At the end of a month, he was responsible to collect the money from us. Then, he produced our contributions along with his on the table. We counted together. He walked to the chart filling the amount of our contributions each under our separate names and as well the subtotal following the months.
At that time, I went to college during daytime learning the law program. When there was a translation project calling, I moonlighted. All Languages Ltd. was a well-known translation company I worked for among others. To say translating Chinese worksheets, the Simplified and Traditional versions were counted as two separate jobs, with double pay. Alas, I was so spoiled just wearing secret smiles.
At that time, the translated documents had to be printed out and delivered in person. I assigned our son to do the delivery. I advised him to take the tram in front of our housing building after school, and transfer to the subway to arrive at the company. I paid him five dollars per delivery and gave him the adult fare though he rode by buying a student ticket. Obviously, there is a difference between adult fare and student one.
The staffers at All Languages Ltd. recognized him immediately and said Jonathan Junior was coming. Everyone said that the son looked alike of his father. His mother always said in addition that we shared the resemblence because the father and son shared the similar slender eyelids. In fact, our eyes look normal. Friends who know us admit the fact that we do not have the narrow eyelids.
I paid a delivery for five dollars and TTC tickets at the adult fare. He saved them for his contribution.
At that time, his mom was a college student, either. At the graduation ceremony evening, she ran twice onto the stage to receive one award after another prize. As well as to step up in the queue to receive the diploma. She was busy that evening, running up and down three times.
On weekends, she worked at Chinese restaurants in neighbourhood, taking orders, serving dishes and billing.
On the last day of every month, our son asked me how much I could hand over that month. I calculated the translation jobs in that month, and pulled the pocket bottom up. The son went to ask his mom for money. She took out all the cash including tips earned on the weekends. The son also showed us the money he earned. That was the money he received for the delivery plus the fare difference he spared.
By the end of the year, almost two-thirds of the money was paid off. We decided to use the savings to settle the account. The son gave out a final entry on the chart and closed the account. That was how the whole family bought this piano! Mom, Dad and the son all were involved. Everyone felt proud of it.
The Piano that converses
The son learned the piano following his own goal. He completed Level Eight and quitted. He did not want to go to Level Ten and neither did he accomplish the Performance Level. It is enough that he could make himself feel happy when he entertain himself by playing the piano. Meanwhile, he took the opportunity to pick the credits for the curriculum. He practically figured out the family finance and made his learning plan fit.
However, he really regards playing the piano as a mental exercise into his sooth and ease-achieving mood. He made it.
Sometimes, at a sudden, my son rushed out of his room, ran downstairs, slid a chord with one hand on the piano. In the next moment, he sat down and played it repeatedly, bringing out subtle changes, evolving it into a harmony. At intervals, he took notes.
In case when I happened to be sitting on the sofa nearby, he requested me to listen and tell if I heard something? He proudly declared that it was the harmony he wrote. As a matter of fact, mathematics is interrelated to music. When he was solving math problems, a rhythm popped up in his mind. It is true.
Sometimes, he went upstairs and downstairs to find me, led me to the piano, and asked me to sit down. Then, he played a piece for me and said that he wrote it a few days ago.
Other times, his mother talked to him about something that he did not like to hear. Our son did never retort his mom. But he ran to play the piano. You might hear that the sound spread violent stomping and speed of rapidity. Then, the notes turned to roll out along a flowing creek. At the end, you might see him slowly rose and left the piano as out of a mental massage.
The Piano that witnesses love
Our son went to university but lived at home. As such, there still were so many days when the mom, dad and son could have dinner together. I remember one Thursday evening when I was cooking over chatting with his mom. She idled beside me. Our son returned. He stood in the centre of the kitchen and said, "Listen, I have a girlfriend."
I did not bother to take off the apron, going over to hug him and congratulated him. His mom always enjoyed the privilege of having hug with her son at the first sight after he came home. This time, also, she came up to hug him and congratulated him. As I recall, since that day, our son no longer actively hugged his mother when he came home from school.
As parents, we accepted his choice, totally out of reservation. Besides, he was grown up. He started his life and worked on his happiness. We are only entitled to give out blessings.
They met in a Christian fellowship group on the campus. When he entered the university, our son did not find kind of a campus fellowship unit that spoke Mandarin. Along with some fellow students who shared the same vision, our son led a campus fellowship group that spoke Mandarin. As such, his former girl friend and our current daughter-in-law came into his life.
The favorite moment I enjoyed most was the time when they rehearsed the hymns service at the living room. The daughter-in-law played the piano, the son played the recorder. They consulted each other and rehearsed over and over again. I sat quietly at the far end of the living room, afraid to interrupt them but watching them heartfeltly.
I , some time, secretely sent a message to my wife, asking her to come over and sit by my side. Enjoy the moment! She was less patient and stayed short. Before leaving, she warned me not to play a role of the light bulb in between. The piano witnesses the love blooms between our son and daughter-in-law.
On June 18, 2013, they went to Microsoft in Silicon Valley shortly after they married. We drove them to the airport to bid a farewell. When she said goodbye to us, our daughter-in-law left a word: I will take good care of TK. Don't worry. The union in the Lord is the divine union. Man and woman have to be one flesh. We are grateful. However, since then, the piano was neglected.
In later days, they began the immigrant life in the US. Their church life has been exercised as usual. It has become their ground stone of life. Nothing can tear them away from Him. Isn't it the most reassuring thing? They have an American-born daughter now.
Recently, on a phone talk with him, he casually uttered that he would plan to retire. I did not feel surprised but neither did I ask for details. Because it affirms a truth: life affects life.
When he was in Grade Nine, he once flew to Orange County for a youth conference. He stayed with the family of an evangelistic worker who served full-time. The young father was only 36 years old then and had two daughters, eleven and nine. He used to be a veteran staffer of Microsoft in its early time. And when he felt the call, he quitted his high-paying job and high-profile career but started serving evangelism in full-time.
Our son spent about eleven days with his family, the period from Christmas to New Year's Day. After returning, he talked to us about his experience in those days. We just surprised that he became hardly strange through those few days. It foretells that a seed will always germinate in time.