A Little Smaller, A Little Larger

“I’m a little nervous,” said Barbara, 82.

“What? You don’t get nervous!”

I’d never, ever, heard her say that she was nervous about playing. It was three days before our group class at Dave’s house. She’s been playing in these classes forever.

Today she started the Gavotte from the D Minor English Suite and she didn’t sound like herself.

I was scared. What if she was really “failing” – that dreadful word that people use when old age comes on with a sudden vengeance.

I looked at the variables.

She had the correct piano glasses on.

The light was arranged well. I’d closed the drapes that block out the light behind the music rack. In the early afternoon it’s a problem for my older students. Glare is a big deal for them.

Still looking for things I could fix, I glanced at her music. She was using an old Dover score for her Bach Gavotte. (I actually love this particular book. It’s called Keyboard Music and has all the English Suites, French Suites, Partitas, Two and Three Part Inventions and Goldberg Variations. In one book. Her copy had a price of $5 on it. It’s now three times that much and still a bargain.)

But as you might imagine in a book that full of music, the print is small. Duh.

I grabbed the book and ran to my printer. It took a few tries to get the right combination of enlargement and darkness settings. (125% and darkness level +4, if you must know. And no, it wasn’t violating copyright laws to enlarge something she already owned.)

I handed it back to her.

She was back.

Barbara has been my student for 28 years. Really. She first came to me when I lived in a little studio apartment across the street from Golden Gate Park. She kept coming when I lived in the two houses before the big, fabulous one I live in now. I’ve gotten married and had two children. She’s lost her husband. I played for his memorial service. She’s having cataract surgery in a few months and I’ll probably drive her to the procedure.

This would all be less amazing if she didn’t live in Orinda. I live in San Francisco. The drive involves a treacherous tunnel, the Bay Bridge and a lot of city traffic. But still she comes.

She’ll be there at Dave’s house tomorrow. Playing beautifully from her 125% enlarged score. She’s been coming to these classes for 28 years.

She’s just a little smaller than she used to be, the music a little larger.