This year Christmas was a bit quieter than most; there were five of us (our family of four an Jennies father) gathered here in Atlanta on a warm and beautiful day. We exchanged gifts, cooked a delicious meal, and really enjoyed the time together. Jennie’s sisters and their families were out of town this year, sharing the holidays with their “in-laws,” thus our “quiet five”, vs a more rambunctious twelve, gathered on Christmas day.
In the afterglow of the holiday meal (an attempted reprise of an incredible meal the family shared on an incredible vacation in Italy a few years ago) we found our way to our living room and Don (Jen’s dad) sat at the piano and began to play. It’s been an inspiring and humbling experience to marry into this incredibly musical family; filled with talented singers, songwriters, performers and musicians that span genres and instruments. While I don’t know exactly how many instruments Don knows how to play, he is an accomplished and talented pianist and organist. On Christmas day, as he sat at our little piano, he began playing Beethoven ( I think) from memory and it was exquisite. There was no music on the piano, just the little painting pictured above, just this eloquent music being reproduced from memory. Outside of a sticky/broken “D-Key”, the little piano held up well and we just all quietly sat in the living room appreciating the artistry and talent on a warm/sunny Christmas afternoon.
After a few minutes, the music changed a bit and while I could tell it wasn’t exactly the Beethoven we had heard before, I wasn’t at all sure of the musical source. Now it’s not a bit unusual for me to be musically “in-the-dark” with this family so I sat quietly for a bit truly enjoying the musical change. After a few minutes I quietly asked…. “Don, is this still Beethoven or is it another composer?” Without hesitation my father-in-law said, “no Bill, it’s not Beethoven, I am playing the painting on the piano.” Now I know I am not the brightest bulb in the pack, and that is especially true on all things musical, but his response stopped me in my tracks. “Playing the painting Don… what exactly to you mean?” was my honest question. He described the red flowers in the painting and then played a theme that to him expressed the flowers…. And then described the blue and green “foliage” and proceeded to play the musical theme that represented those images then very casually put the two themes together and went back to playing the music he had created from the image on the piano…. he went back to “playing the painting!”
In life and I think in families we often take too much for granted, and this story is meant to take a pause and simply recognize an amazing, creative, inspiring moment. I am lucky to be part of this family (regardless of my limited musical prowess) and feel very fortunate to have witnessed that moment pf creative inspiration. Maybe it’s common for musicians to pick up their instruments and “play a painting,” but to me that moment will stand out as a distinctive and powerful moment of a unique, inspiring and very talented person…. My father-in-law Don!