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Friday, January 21, 2011

Borchers Stories - Part 1 - The Piano

This past Christmas Day (as every Christmas, give or take a few, for the past 35 years), I had the opportunity and privilege to visit with my two aunts and uncle from Napa, CA.  Since they are living individuals, I will not indicate their names here.  My two aunts are my grandma's sisters.  My grandma was Dorothy Marie Borchers Flanagan (1921-1997). 

As you may have guessed, her sisters are in their 80s.  Let's just say they get around really well for their age.  My husband even asked if they ever age.  In the past ten Christmas' that he's been apart of the family, he's said that they still look the same as does my mother, who looks just like them (except about 20 years younger and not really elderly quite yet).  I can honestly say that I do not have their physical features except maybe those blue eyes.  My older aunt of the two did talk about a few of her friends who are in 24 hour care at this point in their lives while my aunt still keeps her schedule and actually drove everyone to my mom's house for Christmas.

I asked my aunt how many piano students she has this year.  Yes, she does still teach.  As my mom would say, "She's the fun piano teacher!".  My mom would know, she took lessons from her aunt.  Her aunt was her second piano teacher.  At the age of 85 years old, my aunt has 35 piano students in a given week.  I then asked my aunt how long she's been teaching piano lessons.   She started thinking about it and started to say 38.  I said 38 years is a long time.  She then said since 1938.  I was astonished.

My Aunt, who I'll refer to here at Aunt ML Borchers from here on out, started teaching piano lessons at the age of 13 years old.  A few of the neighbor kids, who were just a few years younger than Aunt ML Borchers, wanted to learn piano.  They all lived up in Alta Heights on Willow Avenue in Napa, California.  It was interesting to hear my Aunt ML talk about who she taught and who she took lessons from.  I wish that I had taken down some of the names of the people.  Apparently, Aunt ML is still friends with one neighbor who lives in Yountville even today.  Mind you, Aunt ML has now been teaching piano lessons in Napa for 72 years.

The original piano that was at my great-grandparents house on Willow Avenue was an upright but shortly after Aunt ML really expressed interest in continuing to play, my great-grandparents (Herbert Borchers and Mary Vienop Borchers) bought a baby grand piano.  It was in their living room against the wall of the first bedroom at the front of the house. 

What I find so interesting about the piano and its location is that I can picture in my head exactly where it lived.  I spent quite a bit of time at my great-grandparents house as a child until my great-grandma sold her home when she was well into her 80s.  During my childhood, that piano did not live at the Willow Avenue home though.  It lived and continues to live in the living room of my Aunt ML's home in Napa.  In fact, to this day each and every single one of her piano students plays that piano.  That, to me, is pretty amazing and special.  When you think about how many pianos sit in homes across America and are hardly touched, this piano has been used regularly by many, many piano students.

Aunt ML's next comment took be rather off guard.  She said that Dorothy (her older sister, my grandma) was the one who played piano first.  Because of this my Aunt ML got interested in playing too.  In fact, Dorothy and Aunt ML would play duets.  I can honestly say that I never knew that my grandma could play the piano.  My Aunt ML remembers their mother (Mary Borchers) telling Dorothy that if she was not going to practice that she would not pay for lessons any longer.  I guess that was the end of piano for Dorothy.  She lost interest but could still play some here and there with her sister.   I never actually saw my grandma play.  My mom has indicated that my grandma could read music quite well.

Music has been such a large part of my Aunt ML's life.  She was the organist at her church for many, many years.  Additionally, she has played for and accompanied musicians at many weddings and toured with bell ringers.  She no longer owns the organ that lived next to the baby grand piano in her living room.  I can still remember gathering around that organ at Christmas to sing caroles as a kid.  "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!"

My Aunt ML is a living example of music in the lives of young children and beyond.  I am so glad that I wrote this down.

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