Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Key (02/14/13)
TITLE: Key Changes
By Jessica Jenkins
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“Congratulations, honey.” Grandma beamed and handed her a freshly baked cookie. “I knew you would make it. Your mom would have been proud.”
“I need to find an audition piece.” Jenna stuffed the cookie in her mouth. “Something different. Something special.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll find something in all that music.” Grandma sighed. “I remember your mom going crazy trying to find the perfect piece to audition with.”
Jenna kissed her cheek. “She would have made it, too.”
Grandma smiled. “You’ve come by your talent honestly. I just wish your mom could be here to see this day.”
“Me, too, Grandma.” Jenna gave her a hug.
Jenna leaned against the old piano and sorted through her piles of music.
“Too easy... Too long... Everyone will play this one...” She sighed and tossed the last stack of music on the floor. “Nothing.”
Grandma came in holding a faded green box. “This was your mom’s.” She hesitated, and then handed the box to Jenna. “See if you can find something in here.” She brushed a speck of dust off the lid then left, dabbing her eyes.
Jenna flipped through the papers and came across a stack of handwritten music clipped together. Her heart squeezed at the title, “May 1994, Auditions Are Coming!” written in her mom’s flowing script. The pages were faded and crispy but the notes were straight and clear.
Jenna glanced through the pages. “Why so many key changes?” she murmured.
As she looked again she noticed small notations at each change. Dates. Sometimes a specific day, other times just the month and year. “What are these for?” she wondered.
She sat on the familiar bench. Maybe playing it would help her understand. The music started off joyfully. It was free and fun. It must have been from that summer. Then came the first key change. September 1994. Her mom’s senior year of high school. It was a minor key, sad and lonely.
Then a date she knew well. Her birthday. May 16, 1995. Her fingers froze on the keys. She counted backwards on her fingers. September. Eight months? Her mom must have just found out she was having a baby when she wrote the key change. Jenna felt her chest tighten. Her mom had given up studying music because of her.
She started again, this time playing through her birthday change. The music leapt off the page. The joy was back. Her mom had written this for her. She had been happy.
Then there was a gap in the dates. Jenna remembered her grandma’s stories about how her mom had taken care of her and finished school at the same time. There had been little time for music.
The next date, August 2000. Jenna thought back. Kindergarten. Her first day of school. The music was both sad and happy at the same time.
Pages of cheerful music followed. Jenna remembered how happy they had been together.
Then a complete stop. The notes came back slowly, like waking up from deep sleep. Minor, sad, broken. Jenna didn’t need to look to know the date. This music was her mom’s life. Her life. November 2005. Her mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had maybe a year. Jenna had been ten. She felt her life was over, too.
Then, surprisingly, the music changed. There were no more jarring key changes, just subtle ups and downs.
Jenna could remember so many special times with her mom during those eighteen months. Playing piano together, road trips with grandma, Christmas whenever her mom wanted, because there could never be too many family Christmases.
Small dates written throughout marked occasions Jenna could guess from the music. Doctor's appointments, school field day, her twelfth birthday. The notes got shakier and fainter. Then suddenly, the end. In the middle of a measure, her mom had put down her pencil and never picked it back up. Jenna found a pencil and wrote the date. June 1, 2007. The day her mom died.
Through her tears, Jenna played through the key changes again. She could picture her mom at this same piano; writing her life story while her daughter slept. When she got to the end, her fingers followed the melody past the last note. This was her song, too. She took her pencil and added a date. November 2013. Auditions are coming!
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