Today the Well Tempered Brother wrote to the WT Sister and me to tell us that our grandmother, Nannie, would have turned 120 years today. Though she has been dead over 40 years, I think of her every day, especially when I play the piano.
In my earliest memory, she could perform magic. She would swallow a grape and it would come out her ear. She carried a purple raffia bag that contained her ever-present knitting and there were always Life Saver Charms in her purse.. She always wore red nail polish and had a band-aid on her index finger from the knitting needle. She was from Fall River Massachusetts where there had once been witches and said she could give the evil eye . . .which looked an awful lot like just squinting one eye and keeping the other wide open. When she was a little girl she would pass the house where Lizzie Borden was never convicted of killing her father and stepmother with an axe. Nanny was built like a fire plug (when she was slenderer) but dressed sylishly in Chanel style knitted suits.
Best of all there was a piano in the Bronx apartment she kept with my grandfather. It was the only piano I knew and we would only visit it on Roast Beef Sundays. She played and my dad played on the piano she had bought with her first husband when my dad was a little boy. They would let me play but only a little and then only softly or else "The Super" would come. I always imagined a dark figure in a cape.
Now that same piano, a Sohmer's circa 1928 is in my the house that WT Brother shares with his wife and small children and the WT Mother. When I bought my present piano from the Well Tempered Tuner, he also had a Sohmer in his warehouse. I played it and was immediately transported to the Bronx. "Yep," said, WTT-- "it has a tinkle tankle vibe."
And Tinkle Tankle is how Nannie described her playing. She never played any classical music in my memory. But I did inherit a benchful of her sheet music. My most vivid memories are of her flourishing Never on a Sunday, and bouncing in rhythm to The Alley Cat. She taught me and my cousins the steps! The newest song in her collection was Winchester Cathedral. She loved the music and dancers in the Red Skeleton Variety Show. When I visited the WT Brother a few months ago his kids danced while I played Let it Go on Nannie's piano. Tinkle Tankle.