March 5, 2015: A Piano Story

Mom, Aunt Joan, Ben, and Zach enjoy a quiet moment after the winning bid
Our piano has a long and loving history with my family. It began at the Elmer Pick home in the early 1950's. This piano was handpicked by my Grandpa Elmer's sister, Sister Aiden. And, yes, she really was a 'sister' under both meanings. Four of Grandpa's sisters chose a life of service as a nun as their vocation.

The story, as I have been told, is that the musically gifted Sister Aiden went with Grandpa to the piano store and carefully played each piano until she choose the perfect one for her brother's home.

                The Pick "Sisters"

This same piano now sits in my living room. My mom and her eight siblings were taught on this piano at their childhood home in Remsen, Iowa. It then traveled to the farm as my grandpa retired from his life as a vet to begin his life as a farmer. The piano ultimately followed my grandparents back to town when they retired.

I remember the piano well on the farm as a little girl. It had its place in the center of the family room. And although at times it collected stacks of paper and boxes; on holidays and special occasions, it was played with vigor.

Aunt Joan and Mom perfected their duets together in front of an engaged audience. The grandchildren played their songs of choice, sometimes just pounding on the keys with a quick reprimand from Grandpa. The piano was a focal point at our grandparents' farmhouse. Many family photos, including the one of my family below, were taken on the piano bench.

Mom & Dad with me and my brothers              
After Grandma and Grandpa passed away in 2000, an estate auction followed. The nine Pick children were allowed to go through the household items "pre-auction" and choose special items they wanted to keep in the family.  Somehow in all the planning chaos, the piano was forgotten. This oversight was not caught until the day of the auction as the piano took display for potential buyers.

It was a beautiful fall day in Iowa. I had made the trip from Omaha with my three boys; Zach, Ben and Grant (then 7, 4 and 6 months). The day was full of the busyness that a public auction entailed. The many collectible and household items that had accumulated over my grandparent's lifetime were presented for purchase for the onlookers.

A crowd had gathered; scoping out items of interest and collecting their bid numbers.The Pick siblings quickly realized that our prized piano was on the auction list. How did this happen? Although the clear sentiment was to keep it in the family, auction rules did not allow us to reclaim our treasure.

Young Zach sensed the panic among us and jumped in. With sad seven year-old eyes, he pleaded with me.

“Please, Mom, can we buy the piano? I want to learn to play SO bad! Please, can we buy it? You NEVER need to buy me a birthday present ever, ever again. PLEASE!!!”

That was it. I was determined. That piano was going to our house in Omaha. It belonged in the Pick family and it was going to stay in the Pick family. Determined, Zach and I gathered our bid card and planted ourselves in position for piano bidding.

A twist in our plan quickly developed. It came to our attention that piano re-sellers were also at the auction. To our horror, these curious out-of-town buyers were eyeballing our piano.

Word spread fast among the locals who were present. Elmer's family wanted their piano back. The townspeople were rallying; anticipating a bidding war as the piano got closer to the auction block. The out-of-town re-sellers quietly at bay.

Then the piano was announced and the bidding began.

You could have cut the tension lingering in the air, as bids went higher. With each bid by the strangers across my grandparent's living room, I would counter by raising my bid number in opposition.

Zach was right by my side, wanting me to 'win' so badly. As we went back and forth raising our cards, the auctioneer barked out the higher bids. Family began looking at me with eyes asking if it was time to stop. One pleading look from Zach and I raised the final bid, without hesitation.

The auctioneer asked for a counter bid. Silence.

He asked again. Silence.

“Going, going, GONE…Sold to Sandy Lane!!”

The crowd roared. My mom and aunts cried as Zach jumped in the air. The home of my deceased grandparents was filled with pure joy. It was although our 'win' was all for Grandma and Grandpa.

After the spectators and auctioneer moved on to the next auction item, the Pick sisters lingered by the piano in silence. My Aunt Joan quietly sat down on the piano bench. Without a word spoken, Mom sat down next to her and together they began playing a song. A duet they knew by heart as it was played countless times over years and years of practice on their piano.

Without a word or a dry eye, the rest of us listened.

The piano is now in the happy residence of my home. A focal point in our living room, I have listen to the sweet sounds of the piano fill our house while all three boys spent years in piano lessons. I joined them for a couple of years as well. And with every playing note, I am forever reminded of the loving fingers of my aunts that have danced on these same ivory keys in the years past.

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