This is my favorite story of my parents’, I think.
…and after 47 years, they have a lot of them!
My mom is musical. That was actually on my dad’s “list” of traits he was seeking in a future spouse. My dad enjoys music, but doesn’t play anything, and only sings in church. But he knows music well from the physics standpoint and has taken to refurbishing old pump-organs in his retirement. Also important to the story: to Dad, a pipe organ is the Holy of Holies.
There has always been a piano in our family house. When I was little, it was a baby grand. …and a harpsichord, actually. When we moved overseas, we got an upright. They moved back State-side and ended up with my grandma’s old spinet in their new house, which had no room for a larger one. When retirement came up, Dad bought Mom a new baby grand. Again, he doesn’t play, but has the ear to know there’s a difference, and anyone who has sat down at a grand and an upright can feel the difference in the action of the keys. What is an extravagant gift to most people just made sense to Dad.
They chose where they wanted to spend retirement, and had a house built to specs meant to last them the rest of their days, including a “Great Room”. What’s so great about it? Well, planning for every eventuality of aging, if one of them becomes an invalid or if hospice becomes involved, a bed could be wheeled into the Great Room and that person could still take part in family festivities.
When they moved in, Mom chose a corner of the Great Room for the piano and Dad said, “That’s great! Then we can put a pipe organ on the other side of that window!”
This is the piano in question. (you can see, the house isn't 100% complete yet in this picture...
the hole in the wall for the vent, the boxes, the large frame on the floor leaning against the wall.)
Mom, knowing better than to assume either humor or seriousness, defended her territory with “We are NOT having a pipe organ in the great room! If we ever got a pipe organ, it would have to go into a room downstairs.” (Their house is on a hill, and the main floor is actually the “upstairs”. Downstairs opens onto a patio slightly down-slope.)
Mom never for a moment thought that Dad was genuinely considering a pipe organ.
(This first part of the story I got from Mom well after the rest of the story happened.)
The Rest of the story:
Dad is all connected-up in the pipe organ world. (Ha! You didn’t know there was such a thing, did you?) When a smallish, “affordable” one came available, guess who bought it! Some of the bigger pipes had to be altered (a bend put in at the top) to fit in the low-ceilinged downstairs, but the whole organ – keyboard, pedals, bench and pipes – fits in one of the small downstairs rooms with no windows, that was just being used for storage.
Now, in my parents’ world, this gift of a pipe-organ is the equivalent of a gift of lingerie in the real world: The gift is given to a woman, who uses it, but the man gets to enjoy it, too!
My mom does use it. She’s one of the organists at their church, and it is genuinely convenient for her to not have to drive down the hill and into town to practice. (who'da thunk a pipe organ was a "convenience"!) Also, she has two organ students now. ...And, although she grumbles that “the kids will never be able to sell this house when we’re gone – not with a pipe organ in the basement” she also plays for fun.
My dad’s side of the story is that the day the installation was complete, he was out in the yard and suddenly “Phantom of the Opera!” (his words). I’m quite sure he’s never heard Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, and I don’t think he’s seen the other, older versions; however I know Mom does a mean Cantata and Fugue in D Minor by Bach – I think that’s the title, you know, the one in Fantasia? – So I’m guessing that’s what he heard. Either way, this has been the gift that keeps giving, to them both.
…and to me! I just love this! I love that Mom was totally blind-sided, but couldn’t really complain because a) it was a gift and b) she had given tacit approval by saying where she would prefer to have a pipe organ! *headslap* I love the uniqueness of having parents with a pipe organ in the house. It’s just so weird! It’s perfect. Perfectly weird… for two relatively normal people such as they are.
Have you ever given or received an extravagant gift out of the blue?