A piano teacher lived next door to us in Southern California when I was a freshman in high school. The only reason I remember her is that my grandmother told me that she was an artist, and that all artists are messy housekeepers. She pops into my head occasionally when I clean house. I don’t think my grandmother ever set foot in her house, but she was absolutely sure her house was a mess because when she spent so much time playing the piano she couldn’t possibly be cleaning her house.
Well, I am and always have been an artist, and the health department has never called an impromptu inspection. My mother-in-law lived just around the corner for many years, and she never complained either.
The nicest thing about the piano teacher was her two daughters, who being 2 or 3 years older, knew the latest hairstyles as well as being able to teach me the two-step. Now I had taken dancing lessons for most of my childhood, but this was a whole new method. We sent for diagrams from Arthur Murray, set them on the floor and followed the colored footsteps. It was great, but there was no one to dance with, and we never went anywhere you could practice, so we just had Arthur Murray in my bedroom.
This was the period when I discovered boys. Oh I knew about them of course, and had even had a boyfriend in kindergarten, but this was the year someone actually came to call on me. He didn’t really come to see me, but I just happened to be climbing the old fig tree in our alley, and this is the way he rode his bike on his way home from school. We would just stand talk, he would scuff the dirt with his toe, and I would pick a fig now and then for him. Not an especially hot romance. But then a boy actually came to the front door and my mother let him in! What do you do now? I thought. So we made fudge. I’ve made a ton of fudge since then, but none so nervewracking.
Occasionally I mowed the front lawn in order to catch a glimpse of the boy across the street. He was a senior, and a football player. His nickname was “Shifty-hips” Parton, which was a moniker to be reckoned with. I wore glasses, and one day he spoke to me and insulted me by telling me I ‘looked intelligent’. From then on, I tried to never wear my glasses.
And oh yes, the messy piano teacher tried to teach me to play the piano, but it was too late. I had discovered boys.