Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Hardman


The Hardman upright was around before I was.  My parents bought it somewhere in Brooklyn in the late 1960s.  When I arrived, it had been sitting in a Bay Ridge brownstone living room for a few years.  My mother had played piano since childhood, and was offering lessons to neighborhood children.  Eventually, after we moved to Florida, I took some, apparently doing fairly well.  I can remember my mother writing letters on the keys - lightly- in pencil for me as I learned the notes.

Back while we we're still in NYC, I also remember putting my finger (Lord knows what was on it) on the Hardman logo and removing part of its gold etching.   It's one of my earliest memories; thankfully I don't recall the certain punishment I received.


I played for a few years but my story is much the same as probably millions of others.  I wanted to go out and play.  There was endless sunshine and kids down the block and I wanted to tackle them on my friend's big green lawn.  Being cooped up inside to practice scales wasn't my thing.  I just stopped.  I don't remember feeling as if I made a mistake, the way I do now.

The Hardman moved with us four times while I lived with my parents.  My mother played it daily.  Mostly standards, a lot of Sinatra and Dean Martin.  Religious hymns.  She even wrote a few tunes later on.  Christmas was her favorite time and our house was always decked inside and out.  The old familiar holiday songs echoed through each place.  Sometimes I would sit next to her and plink a few keys.

The father of one of my church friends would tune the piano at various times.  More recently, he and his wife have been patients of mine.

The piano remained with my dad and me after my mother left, when I was nineteen.  It sat and collected dust.  My father never played and always seemed indifferent to its presence, even though he loved music. Especially those interminable Norwegian 33 1/3s with their side long accordion solos.  When I left a few years later I had it brought over to my grandmother's house. First her old place and then to her condo west of town, where she spent most of the rest of her life.

The Hardman was untouched for several years, save when here and there my mother decided to pull out the same sheet music that had resided in the stool for decades.  Then my grandmother's new husband, Tom, began to play.  He especially loved polkas and very often deviated from the notes, adding his own flourishes.  My mother did that too, finishing sounds with that right to left swipe across the keys.  Didn't Liberace do that, too? That Hardman took a pounding.

In the 1990s, Mom and Tom played a few duets in public for local benefits for abused women.  The "Beer Barrel Polka" was always the finale, and I recorded a few of these shows.  Rousing, it was.  Brought down the house.  The attendees were mostly women my mother and her mother knew, with a few others who had seen the bad side of physical abuse.  All ages.

In 2007 my mother entered a rehab facility and there she remains.  A long, difficult story I have discussed here over the years. The Hardman again sat in silence at my grandmother's apartment.  It would gradually become a place for multiple picture frames and stuffed animals.   In 2012, my grandmother was admitted to a nursing facility.  She was there for a little over two years before passing on.

She left behind an apartment filled with thousands of photographs and piles of clothes.  Many books, which we recently donated to an annual church sale.  I have had little time to attend to the place due to a most eventful year.  I check in weekly for the mail and to makes sure everything is intact.  The Hardman again sat under layers of dust, waiting.

Last month it took another journey, this time to my mother-in-law's house, where my wife and I have been living since August (scroll back).  I found a trio of careful movers I trusted and everything was hunky dory until we got to the guard gate:

Me: "There's a moving truck coming behind me.  Can you let them in, please"

Guard Gate Guy: "No deliveries allowed on Sunday!"

Mentally, my palm hit my forehead.  I had totally forgotten about the no Sunday rule. Boards love to create rules like this.  I felt a pit in my stomach.  The truck pulled in behind me, idling.

Me: "Please, sir.  I need to get this done." I felt my head get warm and began envisioning hundreds more dollars flying into the wind.

GGG: "Oh no.  I could lose my job!" The guy's eyes appeared as if to water.  Shit.  What was I going to do?

Just then, thank you, Lord, my MIL was on her way out of the complex.  She jumped out and I apprised her of the situation.  Her pleading with GGG was no help.  It finally took her phone call to a board member to get the gate lifted.  Whew.

The Hardman sits in a new living room.  Waiting.

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