A few years after we moved in together, we realized there was something left to do.
For nearly forty years the piano that had graced Johnny’s childhood family room was kept in storage. It was now time to bring it from its confinement.
A few days before Thanksgiving, we brought the thing into our home and eased it into our family room. We removed the protective pads and wrapping to reveal the olive-colored antique piano with its stenciled fluted Grecian vases linked by ivy and ornamental ivy.
The sight of it stopped Johnny in his tracks. He hadn’t seen the piano since his parents announced their intention to divorce. It is the object that links him to his childhood memories of his mother drinking to the point of incontinence. He heard Uncle Bobby playing his perverse rendition of The Little Drummer Boy for friends and family. He smelled the alcohol- and cigarette-soaked breath of his mother and father, their family and friends. He was back standing in the corner, watching, as the adults of his childhood became louder and louder and he was lost in it all.
Johnny walked from the room and for the next two days avoided the piano as much as he could.
On Thanksgiving Day, his father, Celeste, Joshua, and Lisa arrived with Lisa’s family. With Johnny, they walked into the family room. They hadn’t seen the piano for forty years. There wasn’t a sound.
It was clear that the piano connected them to their past. So many of those people were gone, lost to alcohol or to the effects of punishing their bodies with drink and cigarettes. As Johnny stood with them, he began to see that a piece of him was among those lost people. He was no longer the scared, lonely boy of his childhood or the tragic, drunk adult he’d been.
The piano marked a deep contrast between the person of his past and the person of his current and future life. It could be as much a reminder of his journey to the light, as it was of his life within the darkness.
Soon after the piano returned to Johnny’s life, the painting of Adrianne’s childhood returned as well.
As we hung it in our front hall, Adrianne’s childhood memories came to her. Many were pleasant and revolved around her mom and dad sitting together in their Long Island home after dinner. He read the newspaper while she knitted or sewed.
Adrianne remembered laying her head in her mom’s lap and looking up at the image of the older woman needlepointing a soft, white length of fabric as a young girl watched. Both gazed tenderly at a small, framed circle of fabric in the woman’s hands. Her mother had painted this scene before Adrianne came into her life. As a little girl, she’d felt it play out night after night, only to be broken by the appearance of Elaine and Herb.
Adrianne’s memory shifted to being told that Elaine and Herb wanted her back, then that the judge has ordered it so. Her last memory of the painting was from when she was hiding behind the chair she and her mother used to curl up in. She was sobbing, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go.
Love is the stronger memory. Today, Adrianne adores the painting. It brings back only the happy memories of her childhood, the time before life became difficult and painful, where the love of a little girl for her mom and dad could never be broken, and it never was.
We both understand that as much as any object could, the painting and the piano represent our two unique, yet parallel and braided journeys to become the people we are now.
In the AA Big Book it says, The promises will be fulfilled, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but they will always materialize if you work for them.
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