Once upon a time…wow, there is so much I don’t know about my great-aunt Stella and her husband George Rockwood. Stella was my maternal grandmother’s older sister. I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately, and making up stories about them in my head. They always lived near us when I was growing up in Chicagoland, they didn’t have children of their own, and they were for all practical purposes another set of grandparents for my sister and me. So I have plenty of memories, but all filtered thru the mind of a sheltered child who wasn’t particularly inquisitive and who came from a family where questions might be answered if asked, but information was never shared gratuitously. My mom hosted their 50th Wedding Anniversary party, my uncle spent his final year in a nursing home and died while I was in college, or maybe the summer before college when I was away. My aunt lived another 10 years or so, I have a picture of her holding daughter #1, but not daughter #2. Her final years were spent in a fog of dementia, though she was able to remain in her house through it all. Although my grandmother and aunt were very close, in retrospect I can sense plenty of sibling rivalry and, of course, all those untold stories.
But why have I been thinking about them lately? It’s all about the piano. My aunt was a bona fide piano player. Her spinet piano was both a beautiful instrument and a beautiful piece of furniture. A piece of my brain thinks it was a wedding present to them, but I may be making that up. When it was time to empty their house, my mom brought the “nice” piano to her house to replace the “ordinary” piano that had been a fixture in our home. Musical talent was not very common anywhere in my family, despite requisite music lessons for several generations of us. I plunked away for an embarrassing number of years, considering the end result. My mother was in my league. My sister, however, can really play and I think Aunt Stella’s piano was intended for her, but the life of a world traveler and occasional nomad does not sync well with piano ownership. When the daughters were ready for lessons (I meant it when I said requisite above), Mom shipped the piano down to Houston for us.
I liked having a piano, it made the house feel like a home. Piano tuners always said lovely things about the instrument. The daughters plunked away at it. D#1 enjoyed playing and stuck with it until middle school band and louder instruments like drums caught her fancy. D#2 was never enamored, the highlight of breaking her arm in second grade was the end of piano lessons, yet she still pursued music/band/saxophone into college. And it still is a lovely piece of furniture, despite an accumulation of nicks and scratches (mostly acquired since it has been in my possession, I’m sad-but-not-surprised to say.) It seems a shame that it has sat quiet for so many years.
When D#1 and S-I-L decided they had just the spot for it in their new home, I was perfectly willing to part with it. It took awhile to make it happen, but the piano has found a new home with a fourth generation in the Hasley/Rockwood/Decker/Squire/Drott/Piersol family. The piano movers said nice things about it. Its ivory keys are being tickled again. And there is a decent chance that someday, a fifth generation will be practicing on it.
I now have a nice sitting/reading area in the front of the husband’s study. The round coffee table is a favorite from my grandmother’s house that has been hiding in a corner of the bedroom for years.
To honor Aunt Stella, I think I’ll go buy some butter cookies to put in it, though it won’t be quite the same because you can’t get the Salerno brand in Houston. Just for the record, what good is the internet if you can’t even find a recording of the Salerno Butter Cookie Jingle? Those of you who know it, just sing along with me.
What is it dear?
I want a Salerno Butter Cookie, mommy
I heard you dear
Salerno cookie coming right up
You can lookie, lookie, lookie
But you’ll never find a cookie
With a better butter batter than Salerno
Salerno Butter Cookie!