Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mrs. Rhodes

My mother's ability to meet new and interesting people had an unexpected way of trickling down into my reserved and shy world. She would come into my room and announce I would be taking some lesson or another from someone who was now her friend. This is how I came to take piano lessons from Mrs. Rhodes.

Mrs. Rhodes lived in an older neighborhood whose houses had been built just after World War II. Postage stamp small, cookie cutter cute, several steps up to knock on the door. A very thin woman with not a smile to been seen, a cane at her side,  motioned me to the piano bench just inside the door.

John Thompson red primer set above the keys, a small red spiral notebook given at the end of the lesson with practice warnings made very clear. Mrs. Rhodes was not someone to tolerate a student who did not practice. I was in fear of Mrs. Rhodes.

Trepidation soon set in, fingers shaking over keys I knew by heart, taps to the wrists if ever they should sag. A sticker placed at the top of the page signaling satisfaction complete. I begged my mother not to make me go, Mrs. Rhodes had a heart of stone.

Christmas holidays approaching, good cheer not to be found, John Thompson red clutched to my chest, doorbell waiting, four o'clock dread. A different Mrs. Rhodes greeted me at the door.

Every surface, every nook and cranny, from the ceiling to the mantle, from the kitchen to the piano was decked in red and green. Poinsettias and garlands, stockings and packages, holiday scenes for the eye to catch, Christmas cards one after the other hung along the ceiling. I could not believe my eyes.


Page after page of stickers at the top, red notebook practice warning, satisfaction complete. Mrs. Rhodes set aside her cane and began to play along with me. She began to play alone. City sidewalks and silver bells, I didn't want the moment to end.

I would take lessons from Mrs. Rhodes for four more years and came to love my days in her small home. Not a single day would pass that I didn't practice for hours in the hopes of pleasing Mrs. Rhodes. My brother would tire of my endless attempts at perfection and would push me aside to play my pieces through perfectly by ear.

My brother is a gifted pianist who teaches now at school. At Christmas time my brother will tell me he can see red and green through the windows of Mrs. Rhodes home. I didn't know she suffered terribly from arthritis and was always in great pain. I like to believe the Christmases I spent with Mrs. Rhodes let me see who she was at heart.

28 comments:

Angela said...

Those are the cutest elves I've ever seen!! I think your home will soon rival Mrs. Rhodes for Christmas decorations!

Mona @ la la by mona said...

What a sweet story. I'm literally in tears. Maybe because my mother had arthritis for years and you would never hear her complain. And she played piano. How lucky you were to have a lady who would be such a wonderful influence in your lives. Thanks for sharing that! Hugs.

Cindy said...

Elizabeth ..I do love the cute elves.The piano story..anyone's brings back sad menories for me.I was a child who loved music..and I took lessons from a Mrs.Starr.She would rap my wrist over and over again..Lazy hands she called them.
When I lost my finger and the bandages came off..I just knew they wouldn't send me to Her..they did..and she continued to rap my hand..the one that I had just lost a finger on..they didn't know about phantom pain back then..I thought my middle finger was playing..it wasn't..she would get so mad at me..she told my mother I was useless in the music deparment..I was pulled..and I was thrilled..yet so sad..my love for learning music had been squelched.Later in my 20's I taught myself to play..and It amazes my grandchildren how Nana can play missing a finger..lol
the elves remind me of a play we did in Elementary school..now those are great memories!!

Hugs Cindy from Rick-Rack and Gingham

Sandy said...

E,
What a touching story....just as we spoke of this affliction....these are the cutest little "elves" I have ever seen.....if they need a home....LOL
Cindy's story just breaks my heart......people have no idea the trauma they cause little kids....where did you ever find flannel with red and green starts????

Sandy said...

Such a lovely story Elizabeth! I'm new a blogging, finding your blog was one of the inspirations to create my own, although it's still being created, slowly but surely. Your little critters a the cutest thing ever. I made one of your storks for my daughter and she adores it. Thanks for all that you do and for sharing it with all of us. I watch each day with anticipation of what will come. xoso Sandy

NanE said...

I too had a "Mrs. Rhodes" mine went by the name of Mrs. Booth. I HATED going to piano and so I would stop off at the candy store, spend my lesson money and never go to piano. After several weeks Mrs. Booth called my Mom, sure that I must be deathly ill! Needless to say I had some splanin to do, lol!

auntbeth54 said...

The elves are adorable! Did you make the mice as well? Those are my very favorites. Always a sucker for cute mice, as long as they aren't real LOL. If you made the mice, will you share your pattern for them? You have such a way with stories, I look forward everyday to your blog. It always makes my day! :-)

NanE said...

I forgot to say, those little clown/elves are too stinkin cute!

AliciaH said...

I love how your story shows how it is always important to look beyond the image of what people sometimes project. I am sure that you, and Mrs. Rhodes, both gained from the experience. Thank you for sharing another inspiring story.

And now...

SQUEAL!!! I am so excited to see the elves! I was secretly hoping that you would do them. Of course, this adds to the list of my "Elizabeth Christmas" things that I have to make this year, but I am so loving it!

Thank you so much for sharing your creativity and wisdom.

Alicia in Salem, Oregon

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

So sweet! You are such a wonderful story teller, Elizabeth! And the little characters are precious! ♥

vivian said...

I had two piano teachers that I lived in fear of too! Mrs Leggen and the witch.. I dont remember her name, but it was scarey going to her house. she always wore a long black skirt and her house was so dark! I took lessons for years, but can barely play a stitch! Mrs leggen had some magical poweres too come to think of it. OUr fingers would tell her exactly how many times we practiced during the week.. one day, two days.. whatever.. she was always right! My dad played beautifully by ear also, couldnt read music at all, but he could play just about anything! I think my daughter Jennifer gets her musical talent from him!
hugs
vivian

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

I love your Peppermint Elves and your mice, too, Elizabeth! Very cute and the red and green is a color combo that takes me back to my own childhood. It seems like everybody pretty much stuck to those colors at Christmas time. I think we all had a neighbor like Mrs. Rhodes, too.

Queen of Crafts, Current Events, and Such. said...

O...M....G...I love the Christmas Mice...You never cease to amaze me

Nan said...

E what a beautiful story that held me totally spell bound to the end. Love your sweet little elves too. Nan

Tales From My Empty Nest said...

I love these little elves. By the way, what percent do I need to increase the pattern to make the elf pattern the size of your elves? I increased it to 200%, but was still not sure that was the right size. It's hard to tell. Thanks so much for sharing your patterns. Love & blessings from NC!

Meri Wiley said...

Dearest E,

These creations of yours are just amazing, and what a sweet story. Do you still play piano?

Stop by my blog....it's all new!

Love ya,
Meri

Celestial Charms said...

What a touching story, Elizabeth. You have such a way with words, I can never hear enough. I want to keep reading and reading, hoping I won't get to the ending, any time soon! ;) This was another of those stories.
Love the cutie elves too, of course!
Maureen

Bettsi said...

Thank you for the sweet pattern and the very nice story. I wish I could have a tiny glimpse of Mrs. Rhodes' cute little 1940's house!

Twyla and Lindsey said...

Elizabeth, I love the way you weave your story while sharing your Amazing creations. It brings them to life! Twyla

Andrea said...

What a lovely story to start my day, I always like to look at your blog before I go to work, it brings such a lot of cheer! I love the Elves x

LBP said...

I am soooo making those elves!!! How cute! I love your stories, you have lived such an interesting life. I took piano for about 1 month before my mother and teacher knew I would never be a piano player. I would rather be outside hanging upside down from a tree limb!

Thanks for the pattern, I'm getting started tonight!

Blessings

Linda

Creative Breathing said...

Aunt Beth, No I did not make the vintage Christmas mice ornaments, but I have made the cutest ever choir boy mice, and their pattern can be found on the side bar under Things You Are Looking For, Vintage Crafts. Thank you so much for leaving such a sweet comment! Elizabeth

Creative Breathing said...

AliciaH, new to my blog, I welcome you and your kind comments. I do hope you will have a blog to visit soon! Elizabeth

Pieceful Bits said...

What cute little sprites...E you are so creative. Love the red and green snowflakes on their torsos and those cute hats!!!!
What a touching story.
(~~)
Julie

Beedeebabee said...

Elizabeth, this sweet story just totally pulled at my heartstrings...and your creations just couldn't be any more adorable!!! It's such a delight visiting here! xo Paulette

lizzidroege said...

my goodnes this story hits home for me, my mom was a concert pianist and she too made me take lessons from a little old lady named Mrs. Oliver I was not a prodige by any means and I think I was a dissappointment to my mom, I just didn't read music well, I was so afraid to go to lessons I almost cried weekly and the stars are still in my thompsons primer,they are buried in my moms piano bench!!lol
lizzid bye the bye i did try one of your felt characters it came out great i call him the pumpkin wizard!! I am now working on christmas stars!! thank you for the unending inspiration

Debbie said...

As always I enjoyed your story so much and the elves are delightful ..could you please tell us what color of felt you used for their faces..Im getting ready to order from that wonderful wool felt place you told us all about and want to order the right color. Thank you for being such a sharing person with all of us

Debbie

Lorlore said...

I absolutely love your story telling!!!! I also took piano lessons which we really could not afford. So our Mother would bake the Teacher and her Husband a cake every week and then she ironed for them while our lessons were going on. Later when we were older, my sis and I baked the cakes and did the ironing. I appreciate it now!!! Love your elves!!!!