Legerdemain (#455)

Go here for many photos of Charlie’s Heart of Sailing sailing adventure.

To teach Charlie to use all of his fingers when playing the piano, his teacher wrote the numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 on his index, pointer, ring, and pinky fingers in wash-out-able black pencil. Charlie—who has always objected to having more than a slab of color painted on his face—watched attentively as his teacher did this for the first time a few weeks ago. His teacher then produced some new exercise sheets with the F written under a large musical note on the grand staff, and a 3 above it. The teacher held his hand gently under Charlie’s to play “F, 3; F, 3; F, 3” and then (turning the page) “E, 2; E, 2; F, 3, F, 3.”
The first time I tried to help Charlie practise this his fingers were stiff, the index finger rigidly seeking to play every key. (As for finding numbers written on his fingers, Charlie grinned looking at his newly decorated hand). Tonight, my fingers just touching the bottoms of Charlie’s, I felt his fingers moving, individually, the pointer finger on the F twice and then the index on the E, then (turning the page) his pinky pressing G.

Charlie has beautiful, slender fingers, long as his palms. He was born with these, and big feet: “He’ll have to grow into these feet!” the resident OB-GYN had called out, a few minutes after Charlie was born. Beautiful, but I have wondered if his willowy fingers have made it hard for him to grip a pencil and to color with precision—only to think now, how easily he can reach an octave on the keyboard.

I still have to strain a bit to play from C to C, from F# to F#. My hands are sturdy and compact, hands that would have been useful plucking green choy from nightsoil-fertilized fields in southern China fields, or sorting asparagus in the canneries, both of which the great-grandmother I never knew did. The same great-grandmother liked to hide asparagus in the fingers of her workgloves to take home.

A little slight of hand can go a long way, whether you’re spiriting away a few choice vegetables, or devising ways to teach autistic children with gross- and fine- motor challenges how to play the piano, or figuring out to use all of your fingers to press the keys, make sound, make music.

And for me standing back as Charlie plays the piano—that’s a magic trick I can’t stop being amazed by.

2 Responses to “Legerdemain (#455)”
  1. Lisa/Jedi says:

    Charlie’s piano teacher sounds very cool! B took piano lessons 3 years ago but lost interest 😦 I loved hearing him play… but we are choosing our battles. B also had big feet at birth. His footprint didn’t fit in the box on the baby-book page 🙂 His feet are now the same size as mine (women’s size 7) & I have started knitting new wool socks for him for this winter. If he isn’t too hard on them, I may be able to wear his hand-me-downs!

  2. Charlie has grown past my feet—-he sometimes thinks it funny to walk around in my work shoes (not high heels). I am hoping he will make it to three years of piano playing—-the fact that he has been happy to do it all summer has been a great thing.

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