Sunday, April 18, 2010

Grandma, You'd Be Proud

This is my grandmother--Esther Dorothea Holz Stegner.  She is my mom's mom.  This photo was taken right before she passed away.  She was 37 years old.  Esther died of breast cancer.

The saddest thing about Esther's passing was that she left behind a daughter, who a month later, would turn six years old.  Another sad fact was that that same child, after starting Kindergarten, contracted whooping cough, and so that her mother could rest, was sent to live with her German-speaking grandparents.  She continued to live with them until her mother's death.
This photo is of her grandparents--Johann Heinrich Wilhelm and  Dorathea Catherine Kluever Holz in their younger years--they are the couple to the far left standing in the back.  From what I understand, in their married life, they nearly always had someone else living with them.  They must have been very good, charitable people.

When I would ask my mom stories about her mother, she sadly told me that she had no memories of her, and so, my mom got involved in family history to learn about her mom.  She started writing letters to cousins, aunts and uncles to find out some of her mother's characteristics.

One of the fun stories she learned was from her Aunt Sally.  She said that Esther was the first adults that spoke to her as if she were also an adult.  At twelve, this meant a lot to Sally.  She loved that Esther didn't treat her like a little child.

The other thing that was shared was that Esther had a piano that sat in a sunny spot in the parlor of the house.  She would take Ruth (my mom) in to sit in the sunshine and sing to her while she played songs on the piano.

As I sit here, on this Sunday afternoon, Esther's piano sits in my front room.  My daughter, Q, is playing it.  I think if Q could do anything with her time, this is where she'd be.  I love hearing the mustic from Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserable, and others.  Q has a way of not merely playing the notes, but making the music come alive with emotion.  It's truly one of my favorite things--listening to her play.

We learned, after moving the piano into this house and having it tuned, that the serial number on it is from 1879 and that it had come west with the Holz family from Wisconsin.  It was crafted in one of the good years for this particular piano manufacturing company.   I don't know if the piano was ever tuned when it sat in my parents' house, so I believe it just might have all the original strings--that is until we had it tuned.  When we got to the treble end in the tuning process, three strings broke.  We also found that before being tuned, each note was off by exactly one half-step.  I thought that was pretty amazing for so many years going untuned.

Shortly after this tuning, Z, for Mother's Day, gave me a card saying that he would pay to have the piano restored, but they would remove the ivory keys and replace them with plastic.  They would remove all of the insides and redo them.  I couldn't bring myself to do it.  It was such a part of Esther to me.  I will never do it.  I figure that will belong to the next generation.

For now, I think it would please my grandmother to know that her great-granddaughter makes beautiful music come out of it.  That all the effort her family went to to bring the piano with her was worth it.  To me, when Q plays, it is a tribute to Esther.

5 comments:

meganconser said...

What a beautiful history. I would keep the piano the same too. At times our family isn't so far away....

Alyson said...

I have the piano my grandparents bought for my mother to learn on; she never did, but my brothers and sisters and I all tinkled on in and when we were all married and grown, since my mom and dad don't play, I forfeited all future inheritance to grab that piano. It's all I ever wanted from them. :) Mine was a full step out of tune!

Kim said...

I love your blog! I can't even remember how I stumbled upon it, but it's great. I wouldn't touch the piano either if I were you. Thanks for letting me glimpse into your life, even if I don't know you. You make me realize that my life really is somewhat normal!

Julie said...

Thanks Kim. I read your comment right before bed last night. I had a really hard day yesterday, so I appreciated your comment so much.

Tonya said...

I love this story! You have an amazing way of tying history and gospel principals into your everyday life. I learn so, so much from you.

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