HERE'S A SAMPLE CHAPTER FROM "THE GRANDMOTHER STORIES" . . .
"Don't forget your music bag, Doreen." Mother called as she came down the front steps waving the multi-colored
canvas bag in my direction. Today was my piano lesson with Mrs. Neidermeier. I would have liked to forget, but I never could.
My Tuesday piano lesson hung heavily over my head each and every week.
Every Tuesday afternoon after school, I walked to Mrs. Neidermeier's big old home on Harrison Street for my weekly music
lesson. She lived across the street and just a few doors down from my Aunt Kitty's house. It was right on my way home.
Mrs. Neidermeier lived in a large, old Victorian home and had the famous 'largest dogwood tree in the Pacific Northwest'
in her front yard. Eleanor Roosevelt visited in the early 1940's and dedicated the tree and presented an engraved bronze
plaque that was placed at the foot of the tree. Agnes, Mrs. Neidermeier's daughter, thought she was big stuff because of
the famous tree.
I took the bag from my mother and walked to the corner bus stop that gloomy Tuesday morning. I knew I didn't know my
songs very well that week. I always practiced every day for my required 30 minutes; Mother saw to that. She would set the
portable timer and place it on top of the piano and I was to practice until it rang. Many afternoons Mother sat on the bench
with me to make sure I made the most of my time.
Every Tuesday as I sat in my third grade classroom, THE PIANO LESSON loomed in my mind. I couldn't make it go away.
I didn't like to think about running into Agnes either. No one knew where Agnes attended school; she certainly didn't go
to Milwaukie Grammar School like the rest of us. We figured she attended some private school for spoiled brats. A couple
of other girls I knew took piano from Mrs. Neidermeier and we'd discuss Agnes. They didn't like her much either.
The piano was in the parlor in front of two very large windows facing Harrison street. Anyone who walked past on the
sidewalk could look in to see who was having a lesson that day. Each Tuesday, precisely at 3:00 PM, I'd ring Mrs. Neidermeier's
front door bell and she'd let me in to the foyer where I was to deposit my coat, lunch box, school books and anything I had
with me other than my music books. I was to take my music out of the multi-colored canvas bag and leave the bag with my other
things. Then she would usher me into the parlor and close the sliding door behind us.
I'd sit at the huge walnut grand
piano and wait for Mrs. Neidermeier to settle herself in the small, dusty rose colored wing back chair next to the piano stool.
Everything was fancy, but slightly worn and old in Mrs. Neidermeier's home except the beautiful, polished grand piano.
Mrs. Neidermeier seemed fancy and old too. She was tall and slim with very pale, transparent skin. The blue veins were prominent
on the backs of her slim hands, and her fingers were extremely long with short, functional piano-playing nails, finely manicured
and painted with clear gloss polish. She wore long, flowing garments made of a filmy material that floated as she walked,
mostly in varying shades of dusty rose, and she smelled of roses and lavender. I thought this was peculiar because Mrs. Neidermeier's
first name was Rose. The rose-lavender scent was particularly strong when she pulled her lacy handkerchief from its hiding
place somewhere deep inside her bodice to cover her mouth and cough. The thing I remember most about Mrs. Neidermeier was
that cough. It was a tiny muffled fake-sounding one.
She coughed quite frequently and was constantly putting her rose-lavender
scented handkerchief to her mouth to muffle the already almost non-existent sound.
Frequently during my lesson, Agnes would burst in to ask her mother something. Mrs. Neidermeier would sigh and tell
me to practice my scales, then escort Agnes out, closing the sliding door behind them. I could never hear what was said
beyond the door in the dining room, but when Mrs. Neidermeier returned, the house was quiet again and Agnes didn't reappear
I took piano lessons for two years from Mrs. Neidermeier, then one day my mother told me I would have a new piano teacher
as Mrs. Neidermeier was very ill and dying. I remember feeling terrible about the unkind thoughts I'd had about Agnes and
Not too long after that, the 'Largest dogwood tree in the Pacific Northwest' split and broke in half during a silver
thaw, leaving only a very short stump in the Neidermeier's front yard next to the bronze plaque from Eleanor Roosevelt.
© DOREEN BRADLEY SATTER 2011