I could say I wish you were there after every class but I have been saving it for the day when I really need to say it. Today is that day.
We didn’t even have class. It was slippery out, and it’s New Year’s Eve – as expected, the entire building was practically empty, except for maybe twenty people, including staff who was wrapping up their work to take off early. So instead of hiding out in our classroom, our group thought we would just sit around a table in the lobby and chat. In the background, we heard a man playing the piano ever so softly, the volume you use when you’re just playing music for yourself to hear. (I would soon find out that his name is Arthur – my new friend.) One by one, we turned our chairs towards him. Arthur, who had been standing over the keyboard, took a seat on the piano bench. His fingers hit the keys a little louder and with a jazzier groove. Bill took off his sweatshirt and put on his glasses. He walked over to the piano, leaned against it, and started singing. The piano was not glamorous. It was a small, wooden upright in an inconspicuous part of the lobby – I had never noticed it before today. Arthur kept playing – at this point he had started slipping fills into the music – and started singing as well. Dolores had put on her purple coat on her way out, but returned and removed her coat after telling the van driver that she would take the van an hour later. She wanted to stay a little longer today. She started singing too. I didn’t really know the songs they were doing. All I knew was it was live bluesy music, and I loved it. Mo told me this kind of music is called Doo-wop. With a few 60s love songs thrown in between. I couldn’t help myself. I had to join in. They taught me a whole bunch of stuff. I can’t tell you the song names because they didn’t know them when I asked. They just knew the melodies and the words. They made me the lead. They said, Just flow with the melody, then make up the words. Arthur stood up from the piano so we could cluster up to rehearse an a cappella tune – Bill was intent on getting the harmony on this one line perfect so we never sang the full song. “Come, I love you so truuuuu-ue.” I googled this when I got home. I have no idea what song that line is from. I don’t really care. I was having so much fun. By the end of the hour, the entire lobby was on its feet, clapping, harmonizing, inserting yeah, yeah’s between lines, singing spontaneous solos, blending together songs, making up entire songs from scratch. When the senior center’s van returned to pick Dolores up, I said I had to go too. Everyone group-hugged and high-fived and exchanged Happy New Years. I really wish you were there.