Piano Practice

Cartmell Home resident Margaret Fitzgerald practices piano Monday in preparation for an upcoming lesson with teacher Juanita Jenkins.

Hundreds of Palestine's seniors call the Cartmell Home for the Aged their home. The building is almost a town unto itself, with a coffee bar, bookstore, salon, and several other amenities available to it's residents. And, every Wednesday, Juanita Jenkins stops by to provide free piano lessons to the senior citizens of Cartmell house.

That's how Margaret Fitzgerald, a retired Palestine teacher, found herself behind the keys for the first time in decades.

“I used to play piano, when I was a child,” Fitzgerald explained. “My mother liked it, because she could just say, 'Go play piano!' and I'd go off and play it by myself.”

Fitzgerald stopped playing when she was young, due to the large size of her family. None of her brothers or sisters were much interested in the instrument, and she began to feel uncomfortable about her hobby.

She explained that big families can't afford everything, and that keeping an expensive object like a piano for just one person would have been selfish.

So Fitzgerald gave up her piano, grew up, and moved on. But she always remembered her love of the piano. And when she moved into the Cartmell Home, and found out about the lessons, she was hooked.

“I decided to give it a try,” she said, laughing, “I've already got one foot in the grave! When else will I get the chance to?”

Although Fitzgerald's skill with the instrument has atrophied since she was younger, (she laughs while pointing out that her music practice book is designed for children) her innate talents are as sharp as ever.

“I've always had an ear for music” she explains, “I can play a tune just from hearing it.”

Margaret is a quick study, and is regaining her skills behind the keys slowly but surely. Although, the retired teacher is a surprisingly truant student.

“We're supposed to practice during the week, but I don't,” she confided. “I should be playing it more often, but I only really play on Wednesdays.”

Despite her cavalier attitude towards practice, you don't have to talk long with Fitzgerald to realize that she truly loves playing the piano. Although she is self-conscious about playing, when she sits down behind the bench her eyes light up, and a slight smile appears on her face.

You're never far from company at Cartmell Home, with residents living out their lives in every room and parlor, but when Fitzgerald begins to play she seems all alone. She goes back, years ago to her family home. And the only other person in the room is a young girl, learning to play piano by herself for the first time, and all over again.

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