Recently, I had a very filling, rich and satisfying day of ministry, which included the first in-person service at a seniors’ home since the pandemic.

Their piano had been brought out of storage, where it had been put away during that time, and had been returned to the chapel area to be used.

Little did the residents or those leading the service know what was going through my head as we shared in worship.

Major Shirley King and her aunt
Aunt Shirley holding a young Major Shirley. “Our family used to call us ’Big Shirley’ and ’Little Shirley’!” she says

“Who’s ‘Tumping’ on That Piano?”

My mind wandered back decades.

As I played the familiar tunes for the residents, I remembered spending time with my grandmother in her home in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., as a very young child. She had an upright Heintzman & Co. piano in her living room. I recall reading the letters on the piano and understood that the monstrosity originated in Toronto … a world away! My feet didn’t touch the floor when I sat at the piano bench.

I spent many hours practising on the piano—to the dismay of my Nan as she worked away in her kitchen and bellowed into the living room, “Who’s ‘tumping’ on that piano?” No doubt the six-year-old pounding out Three Blind Mice again and again must have done her in!

I value what I learned sitting at that piano. For it was in those times and other times like that when my spiritual journey began.

Lifestyle Choice

My Aunt Shirley would sit me down, hold my hands and teach me tunes. One of the choruses I learned at that piano and sitting in the rocking chair next to the piano was a Sunday school song:

Little children, keep in the middle of the road. 

If you want to go heaven when you die

And sing with the angels by and by. 

Little children keep in the middle of the road.

I was so confused by that simple Sunday school chorus. What ridiculous advice, telling little children to walk in the middle of the road!

Of course, I understand now that the truth and the message of the chorus was an instruction to stay on the right track in life, as a Christian, and I have seen that lifestyle choice modelled by many I love and respect, from childhood to this very moment.

Long after the fact, I realized that my hours learning to play the piano were as much Sunday school as music lesson, and they played an important role in my spiritual formation.

One More Lesson

As I “tumped” out a few hymn tunes today, I remembered the bevelled glass in the front door of Nan’s house. I could smell the freshly lit wood and oil stove on a cold Sunday evening, following the late dismissal from a church service.

I recalled sipping tea from a saucer and eating a slice of toast as a bedtime snack, or perhaps a lemon cream biscuit. I remembered hearing the familiar honk of a car horn as Dad would drive by his mother’s house, signalling he was passing by.

I was thankful for the privilege to be in that sacred space at the seniors’ home as I remembered those days.

Sometimes I smile at where my head takes me. That day, it brought me back to an old Heinztman & Co., upright, used up- (maybe), outdated, seasoned yet still purposeful piano. It was as though someone was holding my hands once again teaching me one more valuable life lesson.

Play it again, Shirley!

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On Friday, July 21, 2023, Goldie Parsons said:

Majors Shirley and her hubby Bill were my officers! Great people! Shirley is a beaupuano player! I love your memories!

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