Are you married? If you are, there’s a good chance my mom was the pianist in your wedding.
She’s played at so many weddings it’s easier to count the number of weddings she hasn’t played at.
Last I heard, the world was up to about 7.5 billion people. Of those, I’d say 2 billion are married. So divided by two…yeah…one billion feels like the right number to me. That’s the number of times my mom has cued a bride walking down the aisle with “Cannon in D.”
When I was a kid, I’d watch her tape sheets of music across the piano. The wedding music was so long that she’d bring the big, spiral song book to church and make copies off the copy machine. Sometimes I’d help and hold the warm paper up to my face. Sometimes I’d copy my hand just for fun or because I was bored.
We’d bring the stack of paper home and she’d begin organizing and scotch-taping sheets side by side. Once they were on the piano’s music ledge, at least a page or two cantilevered into the living room. My mom used binoculars to read the beginning notes. Ok, that’s a lie. But honestly, if it were a truck on the highway it would require red flags and a yellow “wide load” sign.
We were always told that bringing up the subject of money was not polite, but one time I asked her if she got paid to play at people’s weddings. She confided that one time a couple had paid her 100 dollars. Her voice sounded pleased with that amount. I did the math in my head of how much I’d been listening to her practice the songs, plus the times she’d talk about it at dinner, plus the times she’d discuss the material over the telephone with the bride. Add the rehearsal dinner and, according to my math, my mother valued her time at about 33 cents an hour.
The thing that interests me most about my mom playing in a billion weddings for that kind of wage has nothing to do with how little money she earned. She obviously didn’t do it for the money.
The thing that interests me most has everything to do with how many times she’s played a key role in such an important event for so many people. Val Espe, tucked comfortably in the corner, helping to set the musical backdrop for a celebration of two sets of families and friends, all coming together in the name of love (and potato salad).
Honestly, when I think about it, I really don’t see her as a wedding pianist. She’s more of a champion of people choosing to do life together.
I could do another blog post called Was My Mom the Pianist at Your Funeral? but that’s for another time.