Mama saw him in a music store one day, and she bought him right on the spot. She and Papa had been dating then, and in what would have been quite the bold societal move at the time, she beat Papa to the proposal race by proposing with Halstead.
At first, Papa was angry. He was on his way back from teaching his music students at Marble Academy and saw all these men coming in and out of the house. He thought it had something to do with some overdue payment or government conspiracy.
But Mama quickly handed him some tea, calmed him down, and sat him right in front of Halstead. Right on the bench over there. And she proposed to him.
And Mama said, as he looked at the shiny black and white keys, he said yes so quietly, you’d think he was the wind whispering to a curtain. He teared up so quickly that the tears had no chance of running back into his eyes. He never finished his tea either. He couldn’t.
The first thing he did when Halstead arrived in his study was play it all night, well past midnight and earning the complaints of a few neighbors.
And since then, Halstead has been with us through almost everything. And by everything, I mean it quite literally. Mama and Papa liked to joke that Frederick and I were both conceived on either Halstead’s lid or the bench.
Though, sometimes I’m not sure if they were ever joking about that.
There were times when I was sure they weren’t joking.
When Frederick and I were almost out of the house, going to university, Papa decided he wanted to quit his job as a music teacher and become a composer. Mama was supportive, at first, but when Papa asked her for criticism on some of his pieces, she was quite blunt about it. And that bluntness didn’t sit well with Papa. He took her criticisms as a sign that there was something wrong with him as a person, but Mama ignored his hurt feelings and thought he was too sensitive.
He took it so personally that he stopped taking care of himself and just withered away. Mama passed soon after.
And Halstead suffered because of it. I mean, just look at his wood. Look at the chippings on the cover. Just by looking at it, I can feel the bang against my ears as Papa closed Halstead for the seventh or eighth time in one day. He must have closed Halstead a hundred times before he passed.
But even though Halstead’s in such bad shape — even though I’m the only one left to take care of this place, with Frederick gone, too — I can’t seem to get rid of it. I don’t want to.
It keeps me grounded — keeps me sane and open.