“I’ve been thinking of moving to someplace cheaper,” my friend said.
“Well, my apartment will be available on July 15,” I told her. She pondered this for a second, then asked the details. Where was it? How long would it take to get to the college from there? How much was the rent? The answers satisfied her and we decided she’d come see it that afternoon.
It wasn’t my job to find a new tenant for my apartment. I’d decided to give it up completely and had told my landlord so. But hey – if I could help him out by referring a reliable person to him, why not?
She liked the place. Sitting on my couch she asked, “How’s the management company?”
“Management company!” I laughed. “The guy who owns the deli downstairs is your landlord. He’s a very good friend of the family. You can just turn in your rent check at the deli.” That sealed it. Not having to deal with a management company? She was in. I gave her the landlord’s number so she could work out the details.
The next day she texted me to say the deal was sealed. Half-jokingly I asked, “Are you interested in house-sitting a piano for a year?”
“Seriously? That would be awesome!” she responded. Turns out she used to play and would love to get back into it. And just like that my worries over what to do with my piano are gone. It’s staying right where it is. And it will probably get more use in the coming year than it did in the last five.
“Do you camp up there?” people ask when I tell them I’m going on our annual family vacation to Lake George. “Far from it,” I say. “Picture Dirty Dancing. The same ten families come the same week every year to the same place.” “Is there a dance instructor?” they ask, referring to Patrick Swayze’s character in the movie. “No…but they do have boat boys.” I then have to explain what a “boat boy” is: basically college kids on summer break who take us out sailing or water skiing. People think a place like this just exists in the movies. I go on. “They ring a bell for meals and we all go up to the Main Lodge. They serve three meals a day.” “Really?” people ask. Really.
There was a time I hated this place. It coincided with a time in my teenage life when I hated just about everything – including the way I looked in a swimsuit. Therefore, a vacation on a lake was not my idea of fun. Thankfully, they had a piano. That was my solace. I’d bring enough piano music to fill the bench and when I got bored of reading or sailing, I’d head up to the piano. It sits in a room right outside the entrance to the dining room. In the afternoons when I would practice, the place was empty. But it became my own little tradition for quite a few years to play the hour before dinner. My father would sit on a couch behind me and engage anyone who came in in conversation. This was my only rule. You had to pretend like you weren’t listening – otherwise I’d get nervous. Dad was there to explain the rule and keep the conversations going.
Then, the bell would ring. I’d finish my piece, put my music back in the bench, and close the piano. Then, I’d join the procession into the dining room. And sit down to a four course meal with the same people I’ve eaten with the last week in June nearly every year of my life.
The tradition continues. Though my fingers hardly touch the keys of my piano at home anymore, I still bring my music to Canoe Island Lodge. And perhaps tonight, I’ll entertain dear family friends for a few minutes before dinner. But only if they pretend they’re not listening.