Mama put the finishing touches on my hair. I was so nervous. I had taken piano since I was seven, but it had taken me three years to work up the courage to be in a recital. “You’ll do great!” Mama encouraged.
“What if I forget?” My stomach was filled with butterflies.
“You won’t, sweetie. Daddy, Anna, and I will sit on the front row and cheer you on! You play so beautifully!” I sure hoped she was right.
The ride to the recital hall was entirely too short and I was shaking. “Go get em,” Father kissed my head and patted me on the back. My name was already in the bulletin, and I knew that there was no way that I could back out now.
“Hi, Addy!” Mrs. Smith, my piano teacher greeted me with a smile and led me to my seat. “You’re our grand finale!”
“About that,” I began. “Couldn’t I just listen to the others play? I haven’t practice enough.” I back pedaled as fast as I could.
“Now Addy, you’ll do great! I have never heard ten year old play like you do.” She smiled down at me and gave me no option other than to play.
I listened as the other children fumbled through their pieces, little happy songs about dolphins, trains, and nursery rhymes. I listened as the teenagers banged away, crossing one hand over the other, and forgetting to lift the sustain pedal. I wondered how many recitals they had been in? I wondered if I would ever make it through my piece. I wondered why I had agreed to put myself on display for hundreds of people, realizing it probably had something to do with Anna’s upcoming ballet recital.
I studied my bulletin and realized that the pimple faced boy who was playing Toccata in D minor was right before me! My palms got sweaty, my mouth went dry, and I looked down into the crowd at my parents. Father, Mama, Anna, and Penny all smiled in my direction. I wanted to run and hide behind the long red velvet curtains that lined the stage. I wanted to escape through the side door and disappear into the night. I wanted to rip my name off of the bottom of everyone’s bulletin and try again next year. He played his final note, stood and took and awkward bow, and adjusted his glasses as he sat back down among the rest of us. I sat frozen. The grand finale? I was only ten! Mrs. Smith stood and motioned for me to go to the grand piano and I took a deep breath. I had no choice. I stood and headed toward the shiny black bench. The crowd cheered for me and I gave myself a pep talk.
After a moment of closing my eyes and mentally preparing, I knew what I had to do. Even if I butchered it, I had to at least try. My hands touched the keys and I wondered if the right notes would sound. To my surprise they did! I didn’t have think about it, the right notes just came out. After awhie I gained confidence! My hands danced along the keyboard and flawlessly played Chopin’s Polonaise in G-minor. I could feel the hundreds of eyes on me and realized that I wasn’t afraid anymore. I wasn’t afraid! I played the final chord and stood to face the crowd. I saw tears glistening in Father’s eyes and knew that I hadn’t missed a single note.
The attention was enough to ensure that I would play in every spring recital for the rest of my days. I knew that Anna could never hold a candle to the talent that poured from my hands. I knew that I had finally one-upped her, and from the blank expression on her face as the audience around her stood and applauded for me, I saw that she knew it too.