Today’s Comment of the Week: A Former Student Weighs In

Wonderful Reader L writes:

I never thought I’d peruse a blog & “cry”. This piece is brilliantly & pleasantly descriptive, literally reaching out to the reader…and perhaps this is a sign I should make my mother proud and practice on the piano she gave me so many years ago…thank you.

What can I say? You’re welcome doesn’t begin to cover it.

Running this blog has been an amazing experience. I spent so many years writing and writing and writing – all for no one. I met with rejection at every turn. And throughout it all I thought there just had to be readers out there. Maybe not a billion, or a million, or a thousand, or a hundred.

Maybe there were not even ten. Maybe there was just one.

I kept going. Doing my best. Hoping to connect.

And now, when I hear that I have, I’m nearly overwhelmed with appreciation. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt this had I had an audience at the beginning, I don’t know. Maybe I’d be jaded, and take readerly appreciation as my rightful due. Maybe there was a reason why this all took so long. Maybe I wouldn’t feel anything this powerful. All I know is I sure as hell feel it now.

Here’s the story that the reader responded to. And yes, as many of you have probably guessed (and may have already read and commented upon yourself), it’s Object #7 – The Keyboard. Definitely among the top three or four in terms of reader feedback, I think, right up there with #3 – The Blood Cake and #10 – The Burger Car. But I love all my children. (Except maybe #9 – The Intersection. That one was too hard – I revised it too much and lost something in the process. I overparented. But I guess parents can be disappointed and still love.)

This Object also had the special followup post, which is not to be missed.

None of this would have been possible without the blog. I’m tempted to retire. It’s hard to imagine I’ll have more fun than I’ve had these past twelve months or so.

But fear not, loyal readers! I’ve saved a few ringers for the next 25. I’m hoping to get some illustrations going too. And the plan is to bring these Objects out in different formats to make them easier for people to read (in print and e-versions). And to revamp the website. So many projects! But that’s what autumn is for…

My thanks to all my readers and generous commenters who have made this experience so enjoyable. And of course, to reader L, who moved me more than I can express. Onward and upward, people!

100 Objects Special Interlude: The Music Teacher and the Artist

Gui Lessin, circa 1981.

Okay, this is simply awesome.

As regular readers know, I’ve been posting a series called A History of Jacke in 100 Objects. These short stories are fictional versions of things that have happened to me. Like most fiction, they’re based on real-life experiences and drawn from people I’ve known, though the characters are typically exaggerations, or composites, or both.

The stories have been popular, and I’ve been pleased by how wide their appeal has been. That was my intention, of course – not just to share with those who were there, but to express something recognizable to those who were not. So I’m grateful when people I’ve never met tell me they knew coaches like the ones in #1 – The Padlock. Or that they’ve felt the same way as the father in #8 – The Burger Car. Or that they were inspired by the teacher’s triumph in #10 – The Spitwad. Even the ones who say they smiled at my battle with Jerry Seinfeld in #3 – The Blood Cake.

One post in particular, #7 – The Keyboard, about a young boy and his burnt-out music teacher, seems to have touched a nerve. And it has led to a couple of follow-up moments that left me shaking my head with wonder.

The first was from a music teacher who, like the narrator, was given a paper keyboard on which to practice as a young child:

Very, very moving, Jacke, and indirectly very nostalgic for me too. When we lived in Hong Kong in the 50s my parents tried to persuade a Russian piano teacher to take me on when I was four, again even though we didn’t have a piano. Too young, she assured my parents; instead, a dummy keyboard made from black and white paper strips glued to a cheap table was advised, on which I practised for a few months. Then we went abroad.

Fifteen months or so later we returned from the UK, and I was interviewed again and allowed to actually play on a real piano. Said teacher was amazed. “Why didn’t you bring him to me a year ago?” Clearly a few thousand miles was no bar to starting lessons properly. I haven’t looked back, and still teach and accompany now six decades on. Luckily for my students, I’m no Miss Steiner in my approach to pedagogy.

What a wonderful story, with such a lovely ending. So much better than the place I left the narrator in number 7.

An even bigger surprise came from a former schoolmate of mine:

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