Honey, I Shrunk the Piano

TrebruchetMay 11, 2014

Thirty-six years ago my wife got an acceptance letter from Local 8 IBEW to be one of the first 8 women to get a commercial construction electrical apprenticeship in Toledo, Ohio. My letter said something like "Sorry, we�ve got enough white males", but I digress. We couldn�t believe our eyes when we read that within 6 months she would be earning over 8 dollars an hour! Middle class, here we come. Since she bought her first house before she was 21, her second major purchase was the 5�2" grand piano pictured above.

We got married 3 years later and the piano followed us to 4 more homes before I crated it, an all-day job, before our move to Florida nearly 2 years ago. Piano placement isn�t a problem with a 2,300 square foot home in Michigan with a walkout basement, but when you downsize to 1,600 on a slab and your niece moves into the spare bedroom, real estate under air conditioning suddenly becomes more rare and valuable. With my brother and his wife coming for a week, the Den has to give up its role as the media room and begin bedroom duties. It�s not just the twenty-five square feet the piano itself consumes, but its got to have space around it too.

Just as my wife�s career progressed from electrical ditch digger to Corporate Safety Director for the 4th largest rigging contractor in the country, her piano playing evolved too. Let�s just say she was much more enthusiastic in the beginning of each. It isn�t easy giving up an instrument that has enhanced years of holiday and family gatherings, but we can�t be slaves to our possessions either.

She was lounging by the pool when I mustered enough guts to broach the subject of divestiture. We discussed an outright donation and agreed to call her tuner and to visit a local shop that sells pianos the next day. Trading in a piano isn�t much different than trading in a car, except the showroom is cleaner and much more pleasant. It�s identical in that you�re selling wholesale and they�re selling retail, but I�m not complaining. I emailed back a picture of the worst scratches, we negotiated a bit on the phone, and then they picked up a check with the Baldwin and dropped off the Roland. An hour before the deal went down, my wife called me from work saying she was sick. I told her we could call it off, but she refused and stayed at Lowe�s where she�s the Electrical Professional. (87% pay cut, but again, I digress.)

So now instead of a piano that takes up 40 square feet and was hardly ever played, we�ve got a piano that takes up 8, shares an isle with the dining room chairs, and can play itself. While the picture below does glimpse my faucet, that�s not the only thing that qualifies this thread for the "Kitchens" section. No matter the room(s), you�ve got to consider how space is used and how that use may evolve over time. For even the smallest project, always think big-picture and comprehensively. Downsizing isn�t always easy; I had to sell some of my favorite nudes because we�ve run out of wall space to hang them. Sacrifices must be made; some are easier than others.

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Oh my, that was a bittersweet story.

We also have a piano that we think of as "Family" and will have to make hard choices if DH & I eventually retire to the lakeside retreat we built 7 yrs. ago.

We always thought it would be passed down to DS, the real musician in our family. But he & his European-born wife moved to Denmark and they have what you now have.

DD lives in a very charming older Cape - with small rooms....Our big upright - that our kids learned to play when it lived in the unfinished basement of our starter home - might be leaving us one day.

The good news is that you made a long-considered and reasonable choice. And you have live music in the kitchen!! Though our new open floor plan presents decorating challenges, especially during the holidays we love having a piano "in" the kitchen.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 12:54PM
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I just very recently sold my late husband's seven foot Mason & Hamlin grand piano. It was his prized possession and it has taken me almost six years after his death to let it go. We discussed it before he passed and he gave me his blessing to sell it, but it wasn't easy. I am moving to a condo and I just didn't want to take it with me. I don't play and neither does our son. So, it's gone.

This is the first time in almost 40 years that I do not have a piano in the living room. It has taken some getting used to. The room looks quite empty.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 1:38PM
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We had an upright Kawai and my son was the only one who played (everyone else just tinkered). The decision to sell it when we moved was economics - we weren't going to ship it across country to him and he doesn't have room inis current place anyway. We sold it to a lovely family - parents and married children living in one house, and the parents were buying it for their son-in-law. We were happy it found a good new home.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 2:31PM
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antmaril, I am sorry for your loss and hope that like sjhockeyfan's piano your husband's found a good home where it is cherished and will provide the joy of music to a family for years to come.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 2:57PM
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What a neat story, Treb. I have an old upright and long for the day I have the room and the budget for a large grand piano. I was a piano major in college. My dream is a 9' Steinway D, but at over $120,000 I'll most likely have to settle for something a bit more petite. Glad you found something that works for you and still allows you to have music in your home!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 9:02PM
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I have my Mom's upright that she purchased with her first job in 1936. We moved it 350 miles when we convinced her to move to assisted living near me, but she would not go without her piano. I have no room but cannot part with it at this point. Throughout our reno we have moved it all over and it's been great for putting stuff on. It's well loved and nicked from many, many moves and has always been there - I hope my daughter will have room at some point. So hard to part with - brave and practical of you and your wife. I'll have to make this decision some day as we downsize. Treb, thanks for sharing your story.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 10:07PM
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How timely a story, Treb, and yes, bittersweet I am sure. This seems to be a common theme.

My son and DIL will be moving into their first home amd can finally take our little spinet both boys learned to play on. It was locally made in IL, a simple but gorgeous piano with am amazing sound for something so small.

Now I am finding myself having a hard time giving it up. I tried lessons when the boys were learning but like typing could never progress past a certain point and came to the place where I just did not have the hours to dedicate to practice in futility.

It is only right that it should go to one who can actually play it but I will be very, very sad that its melodic notes will no longer fill the house, even infrequently. I loved feeling the music come out of it.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 10:32PM
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amck -- Thank you. I was told that the piano went to a very good home. I am happy about that.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 8:16AM
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I was driving home from work last night and noticed that someone had dropped off a piano outside the neighborhood thrift shop. It had been covered with something, but the wind had blown the cover awry and there it sat in the pouring rain. Made me sad.

I have a 60 year old or so old piano, that I inherited because I was the only one who ever played it out of 5 kids. But I am like greenhaven, I could never develop much finger speed + accuracy (typing is difficult as well) and really haven't touched it in some 20 years that it has sat in my living room. My DD never had any interest, never could get my brother to take it; now I can't find anyone who wants such an old piano that will need some work! It is a Wurlitzer spinet, covered in leather!, and was very nice quality in its youth.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 2:24PM
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Debbi Branka

Darn Treb - wish I knew you needed a trade before you left Michigan! Great stories from everyone.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:51AM
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