Elizabeth S.

Mrs. Aronin

The weather reflected my mood perfectly. It was one of those days when the sunlight doesn’t want to come out and the rain doesn’t want to fall. When time seems to crawl to a halt and the air feels heavy around your body. It was over. I’m sitting on my bed, staring into space. It had been over for weeks. I should have been relieved. The pain was over. Somewhere in the distance, I hear a piano being played. I try to shut it out, but it won’t go away. I feel a tugging from inside of me, a memory from when I was a small child. I try to ignore it, it’s too painful, but it won’t go away.

Suddenly I’m 5 again, just starting school. I’m scared. My mom has asked my neighbor to give me piano lessons. I don’t want to go. I am going to be left in a room with a strange lady. Taking a breath, I enter the room, and see an older woman with a gentle smile. My mom says hello, then leaves.

“Come in,” she says. “Have a seat. My name is Mrs. Aronin.”

“I’m Elizabeth,” I whisper. She smiles and her eyes light up. She gently places my hands on the keyboard.

She always let me choose my pieces, never forced anything on me, and made sure I loved what I was playing. One day I came in having learned by heart the entire piece that she had given me the week before. When I played it for her, she was very proud of me. Not proud in the way that most adults are, saying “good job” and brushing it off. She was thrilled to see that I had finally achieved the level of love of music to play it without prompting. At the end of each lesson, we got to choose a sticker from the sticker dish, but for special occasions, she had a drawer of “special stickers.” I’ve gotten to take a special sticker once or twice. I still have the one that I got that day. It’s an eighth note, and it changes color with temperature, from blue to green to red and back again.

I still remember my first performance. We didn’t call them recitals, because they weren’t. A recital was a public exhibition of how well a teacher had drilled her students. There was very little joy and lots of stress in a recital. We called them musicales and they were always at the house of one of her pupils. We would play our pieces for our families, and then we would have goodies. Before my first musicale, I was scared, but Mrs. Aronin helped me understand that it is okay to make mistakes, and that the most important thing is to enjoy yourself. I had a great time, and I heard all of the older kids play their pieces. One piece stood out, and at my next lesson, I told her that I wanted to play it. Mrs. Aronin knew it would take years for me to be able to play the entire piece, but instead of telling me that I had to wait, she painstakingly wrote out the opening theme in my notebook and helped me learn it.

She played a piano concerto with the Boston Pops Orchestra; she’s only ever played it for us once, on a videotape. In June, she told me that if I wanted to, I was ready to play her concerto. I went out and bought the sheet music, but we never had another lesson.

The cancer hit her hard. She tried to fight it for over 5 years, but in the end she had to stop teaching. I’d  bring her dinner from time to time, and play the pieces that I had been working on. Though she didn’t say so outright, the shine of her eyes said enough for me to know she was proud. Late in December, I took the videotape that she had made and put it on a DVD for her. On the back, I put a message:

This film features the
beautiful piano playing
of Eleanor Aronin,
piano teacher extraordinaire.

Thank you for sharing your love
of music with so many of us!

The lessons that you taught
us, both about life and about
music, will stay with us forever.

You have inspired countless
young people to become better
human beings.

Thank you, Mrs. Aronin,
with much love from everyone
whose life you have touched -
your family,
your friends,
your students,
and your fellow musicians.

When her eyes started to overflow, I knew that she understood what was so difficult for me to put into words. It was hard to keep my own eyes from dripping as she embraced me from her chair. The emotion was so deep, words barely scratched the surface, yet she knew. She understood what I was trying to say, just as I understood what she saw.

I shake myself out of my reverie, tears spilling from my eyes. I’ve been avoiding the piano because I’m afraid. I’m not sure what I’m afraid of, but I’m afraid. I don’t want to do her wrong. But something inside me pulls me downstairs. My mom hands me an envelope, muttering something about how it had been found. I open it and see a note:

Dear Elizabeth,

Sharing my life with you has been a joy, and I know that you will continue to love music. Thank you for all that you’ve done. I want you to know that it doesn’t matter if you are a musician or a scientist,  you will always be special. Don’t forget who you are, and never lose sight of what you believe in.

Love always,
Natalie Eleanor Aronin

It comes together perfectly, and I know she’s watching me with her bright eyes and kind heart, encouraging me. An overwhelming peace falls over me. I sit down at the piano and begin to play.


Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.