And for all those years, we never talked about the disaster at the recital or my terrible accusations afterward at the piano bench. All that remained unchecked, like a betrayal that was now unspeakable. So I never found a way to ask her why she had hoped for something so large that failure was inevitable.
And even worse, I never asked her about what frightened me the most: Why had she given up hope?
For after our struggle at the piano, she never mentioned my playing again. The lessons stopped. The lid to the piano was closed, shutting out the dust, my misery, and her dreams.
So she surprised me. A few years ago she offered to give me the piano, for my thirtieth birthday. I had not played in all those years. I saw the offer as a sign of forgiveness, a tremendous burden removed.
"Are you sure?" I asked shyly. "I mean, won't you and Dad miss it?"
"No, this is your piano," she said firmly. "Always your piano. You are the only one who can play it."
"Well, I probably can't play anymore," I said. "It's been years."
"You pick up fast," said my mother, as if she knew this was certain. "You have natural talent. You could be a genius if you want to."
"No, I couldn't."
"You just not trying," my mother said. And she was neither angry nor sad. She said it as if announce a fact that could never be disproved. "Take it," she said.
But I didn't at first. It was enough that she had offered it to me. And after that, everytime I saw it in my parents'living room, standing in front of the bay window, it made me feel proud, as if it were a shiny trophy that I had won back.