(Life History Stories)
My maternal grandmother, Ada Thomas, was a great lady. She was a wife, mother of ten children, grandmother to 60-something grandchildren and 70-something great-grandchildren, pianist, organist, swimmer, runner, tap dancer, music teacher, frequent bread baker (to feed those kids!), and life of the party! She loved to have fun, and though she was married to a "health nut" she loved sweets, and always had cookies and other treats for us whenever we came to visit. We sometimes referred to her as our "Cookie Grandma" when I was little, but we always called her "Grandma Ada."
I loved spending one-on-one time with Grandma Ada. She was so much fun. I have fond memories of spending the night at their house; grandma took me to the mall in Scottsdale near their home and we had lunch (and dessert!) at Duck and Decanter. I don't remember how old I was (maybe 12?) but I will always remember that; just hanging out with my Grandma (who I thought was beautiful and "cool"), window shopping and talking. I loved every minute of it.
I also remember playing the organ at their house (mostly just playing WITH the organ, rather than actually "playing it"). Grandma would sometimes ask me to play something for her on the piano, which was intimidating, since she played so well, but I did it anyway. Once after I stumbled through a hymn or something, Grandma taught me an important lesson I will never forget, and for which I'm continually grateful. She said, "You don't need to look at your hands when you play... just look at the music, and feel the notes with your fingers. You know where they are. Keep your eyes up. You waste too much time looking back and forth between your hands and the notes on the page." I was surprised! I don't think anyone had ever taught me that before. My piano teacher must have mentioned it sometime, though I don't remember if
she did, but some reason when Grandma Ada said to do it, it made an impression. I was certain I would not be able to do it, but Grandma firmly insisted that I try. I really struggled, but I kept working at it. I forced myself not to look down at my hands.
I think I learned more from that one "lesson" with Grandma Ada than in all the years I had taken formal piano lessons. Over time I was able to get better at keeping my eyes on the music, and my piano playing improved vastly because of it. To this day I avoid looking at my hands when I play. I think it's one of the reasons I enjoy playing the piano, and I always think of Grandma Ada when I do.