I met the Pianist in Boston in 1984, and I noticed right away that she was taller than me. One day I mentioned that undeniable fact, and she said, “You’re not short, you’re medium.” That made me feel somewhat better.
Early on, I realized that musicians and lawyers are not the same. But I also learned that they have some similarities, and I even wrote an article called “Why Being a Trial Lawyer is Like Being a Concert Pianist.” I think I was trying to make a good impression, and the general idea was that both spend many hours preparing before they show up in front of an audience, and then they both hope to perform well and get good reviews. I don’t remember the other similarities, and I’m sure I left out some of the differences, such as that the pianist’s purpose is to provide the listener with a pleasant experience, while the trial lawyer’s goal is to defeat the opposition, even if that involves inflicting a certain amount of pain.
Safe to say that some people saw us as a mismatch, and not just because of height. “You’re going out with a lawyer?” a friend of hers asked. “She’s going out with you?” my mother wondered.
One thing we had in common is that I could read music, sort of, thanks to my early clarinet lessons and the Claremont school system. “Aha!” she thought. “We can play duets together.” So she bought some music, we fished out my boyhood clarinet, and off we went.
Except it’s not so easy for a long-ago member of the Stevens High School band, even one who went to UNH Music School in the summer, to stand next to a concert pianist sitting at a Steinway grand piano and remember exactly which keys produce which notes. The answer to that? A Christmas present from the Pianist in the form of clarinet lessons.
Well, it was a courtship that I didn’t want to see end, so I took the lessons, for all the good that did me. We went back to the sheet music, I tried (I really did), but ultimately I heard three words that still ring in my ears. “Can’t you count?”
So, I put away the clarinet, but not the courtship, and after a mere seven years, and despite my musical deficiencies, we got married in 1991. Since then, we’ve managed to develop some interests in common, including women composers and the First Amendment. And we have traveled together, not only to many interesting places but also through some of life’s cycles. We lost our mothers, watched our children become adults and marry, acquired grandchildren, and moved from one house to another.
Now, more than three decades after that first meeting, here we are, still together, living in New Hampshire and not missing Boston. I’m a lot grayer, which doesn’t bother me, and shorter, which does. Why doesn’t the Pianist shrink, I want to know. She no longer says “You’re medium” but rather, “Stand up straight!” “I am,” I tell her.
Still and all, at a time when the world is in turmoil and our country faces major challenges, we’re still waking up in the morning glad to be facing the day together. At this holiday time of Hanukkah and Christmas, that’s something to hold on to.