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Weekend Life

Tales from the Motherhood: We may be moms, but we’re not dead, yet

“Für Elise” is one of the songs Tales from the Motherhood columnist Jennifer DuBose remembers playing on the piano as a child. DuBose recently started taking piano lessons again; the first time since elementary school.
“Für Elise” is one of the songs Tales from the Motherhood columnist Jennifer DuBose remembers playing on the piano as a child. DuBose recently started taking piano lessons again; the first time since elementary school.

I began taking piano lessons again on Monday, my first time since elementary school. I’m pretty pumped about it. My 11-year-old daughter is incredulous.

“OMG Mom, really?” Holly asked. “A 45-year-old woman taking piano lessons?”

My Facebook friends were more enthused.

Devonne says she’s looking forward to a Chopsticks duet and Shereen, a piano teacher, says I should go for it, as she’s taught many an “over-forty-fiver.” (Hey, Shereen, I’m not quite ‘over’ 45 yet – unless we’re counting months, but I digress.)

I remember how good it felt to really lose myself in a tune, and I want that feeling back. I really need to learn something besides my own crazy rendition of “Für Elise,” though, the only tune I can recall from my childhood.

Beethoven might roll over in his grave at this, but I never did read the sheet music, so my version is whatever stuck from that one afternoon about 35 years ago when I attempted to imitate my accomplished pianist-cousin, Anne. I get a kick out of the fact that “Für Elise” is our other cousin, Janet’s, “go-to” tune, too, which she says she sometimes plays to impress her young boys. That, and her own brief version of Van Halen’s “Jump.” Whoa, very cool.

I wonder what I could possibly play that would impress Noah and Holly? My Aunt Kathy, who, as a young adult, lived with my family around the time I last took lessons, piped up when I asked that question.

“Please, no ‘Swans on the Lake,’” she joked. Yeah, I practically lit my mom’s piano on fire from playing it so often. (Now that I think of it, I do still know how to play that one!)

My friend Amber, another mom, also responded to my post. She says she’s always wanted to learn how to play the piano, and just might try it now, too. I sure hope she does.

The thing is, learning isn’t just for kids. I also think that sometimes we moms (and parents in general) fall into the habit of tending to everyone else’s needs before our own. It seems we can’t justify spending money or time on something unless it makes the house look nice, enhances our kids’ lives or somehow helps someone else, right? But consider that doing something nice for yourself models for your children that it’s OK to invest in oneself, sometimes. Not just OK, but necessary. After all, a happy mom makes for a happier family, doesn’t it?

But my point goes beyond taking care of yourself. Isn’t it OK for moms to do something every now and then simply because it just feels good? I think so. After all, we may be moms, but we’re not dead yet.

“I’m dying to take lessons from her,” I admitted, as I pulled into Mrs. Muir’s driveway for Holly’s piano lesson last week.

“If you want to take lessons so badly, just do it,” Holly remarked. So, with a “Why the heck not?” in my heart and a grin on my face, I e-mailed Mrs. Muir before I even backed out of her driveway.

I get Holly’s ambivalence about my piano lessons. After all, she’s taking lessons, too, and is at that age where having things in common with your mom isn’t always so cool. I guess I felt like I needed her permission, in this case.

Several months ago, after we bought our piano and she began her lessons, I suggested that she be my teacher and teach me everything Mrs. Muir taught her (I figured that by teaching me, she’d reinforce the learning for herself). She agreed, as long as I paid her $5 a lesson. I had to laugh at her ingenuity, but we shook on it.

The lessons were great. Holly’s a patient and thorough teacher, but things kind of petered out when she decided I wasn’t cooperating, as between our lessons I snuck peeks at later pages in the book and took a stab at those, when I thought she wasn’t paying attention. We had a good laugh when she admitted that she was trying to keep me a week behind her.

Mrs. Muir astutely suggested that I get my own music books, so it seems I’ll be playing different music altogether. Clever, that one, and a darned good teacher, too. Holly jumped on the idea.
“She writes in my books,” she said. “notes – just for me.” Yes indeed, my daughter should play a different tune, one all her own.

The first time I sat down to practice, though, she made sure I didn’t miss a beat.

“Something’s not right,” she said, as she trotted downstairs to see why my book’s version of “Mary had a Little Lamb” had a little kink in it. Awesome. I’ll take all the help I can get. (I’ve noticed, too, that since I’ve begun practicing every day, Holly’s more inclined to tickle the ivories a little more often, herself.)

Seems she’s a-OK with my taking lessons, but what’s more, so am I. It really is OK for me to do something purely because it feels good. To me. And it’s about time.

A 45-year-old woman taking piano lessons? Why, yes, I do believe I will.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at

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