Her father was a musical genius by most standards, and he was talented and skilled at not only playing the piano, but also as a composer, arranger and singer. He worked as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, and then taught private piano lessons at his home after work. He also served as the choir director for the local Methodist Church until he was asked to leave because of his sexually related misconduct.
He started teaching his daughter piano lessons very early, and she was his youngest student. She was so small that she couldn’t even reach the piano pedals with her feet. Her father was so proud of his musical protégé, and he bragged to others about her “perfect pitch” ability. She was just another “thing” to add to his unique collectibles.
However, there was a dark secret that his daughter was hiding. She was unable to learn how to read music no matter how hard she tried to understand. She was not able to learn to tell time on a clock either, and most likely had dyslexia. She was already tormented by what happened each night to her tiny body, and was further disturbed during the day by her inability to please her father with musical capabilities. She hardly ever uttered a word, and never, ever laughed. Relatives often asked her father what was wrong with her as she hid behind his legs with her head down. She was very introverted, and could not make eye contact with another person. She was undernourished, underweight, and not nurtured by her mother. She only had ragged clothes to wear, and only one pair of shoes which were saved for special occasions. She was barefooted most of the time, and especially in the summers. Today, this child could appear to have and be diagnosed with a form of autism.
She eventually learned to play Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” as well as Chopin’s “Minute Waltz”, but only by sheer will and determination in order to please her father. “Honor thy father and mother” were words repeated to her regularly. She used the fingering numbers on the sheet music to assign to her fingers in hopes that she could hit the correct notes. She also tried to learn by hearing parts of the songs when her father played them, and then playing “by ear” what she heard him play. The last piece that she was able to learn by these methods was “Waltz of the Flowers” by Tchaikovsky.
When her father discovered that his young daughter could not read music, he was furious. He was angry that she had embarrassed him and that she had wasted his precious time. He immediately took her and left her with the only other piano teacher in their small town. She sat silently on the piano bench, gazing into space, and terrified to move a muscle. The piano teacher finally sent her home.
The daughter never learned to read music to play the piano, but was able to “play by ear”, or improvise to some extent. Her father was ashamed and embarrassed that she could not learn to read music even though it was obvious that she was not capable of doing so. In his eyes, she was no longer his music prodigy or his idiot savant… she was merely an idiot.
Just managing to stay alive in this severely abusive environment was a major accomplishment for this little girl much less being obsessed with pleasing her father with any musical accomplishments. She was shocked that she finally made it chronologically to her 10th year alive, since she had already tried to end her life before that young age. Her mother had repeatedly told her that she was a product of “bad breeding”, and she never provided any care to her daughter regarding personal hygiene. Her daughter ran the streets at night, dirty with matted hair most of the time even as a small child.
Although she went on to graduate with honors from the University of Oklahoma School of Art, and later established a successful career as a graphic artist in Dallas, TX, she was still a miserable failure as a musician, and a huge disappointment to her father.
Even after almost six decades of trying to find a musical instrument which is simple enough for her to play successfully, she continues to buy and then sell them, failing time after time. She persistently pursues her futile attempt to attach to this perpetrator long after he has died.
This video along with the classical piece is a tribute to the perseverance and ingenuity of this dear, precious little girl. May she learn to smile – even to laugh someday… and to forever waltz with the flowers.