AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 7/18/2004 11:37:00 AM ----- BODY:

Noplace like Home

A pair of French doors, glass panes and crystal doorknobs, and white trim, open into hardwood floors and Oriental rugs. To your left as you enter this room, there is a grandfather clock with the sun and moon moving through a small slot at the top of the clock face, and "Westminster Chimes" playing out of the dangling organs of its lower half. Beside the clock, under the window, a couch where you put down your case, click open the buckles, open it with the tiniest sigh of air and breathe in the scent of rosin. A pillow resting against the left arm of the couch says, in cross-stitch, "Old violins make the best music".   Pick up the violin by the neck, feel the strings buzz against your fingertips. Unbuckle the bow from its slot, spread rosin over it in smooth, loving strokes. Turn and walk toward the music stand with the light mounted on top, put your etude book--thock--onto its tray.   There are two distinct sides to the room. The side in which you move, standing at its very edge, your open empty case on the couch behind you, for your lesson, and the side that begins with the other music stand with its back to yours. You do not enter that side, and if coaxed across the line, you are nervous and anxious to get back.   On that side, a Kawai piano gleams black, small slivers of red felt visible at the edge of the keys. Where people keep computers in an office for looking up numbers in a database or factoids on the Internet to aid them in their work is where this Kawai piano, with its keys a catalog of the correct notes, is kept.   On various chairs and furniture--that side of the room is a fuzzier picture--there are cases open as if displaying jewels, instead revealing the ancient wood of unimaginably (to you, as a child) expensive violins and violas.   Meanwhile, to your left at the music stand, bridging the boundary between your side of the room and the other side, there's an empty fireplace, painted white, and a large clear mirror framed with white trim above the mantel. On the mantel there are frightening harlequin dolls. For whatever reason, it is these dolls your eyes fall on whenever you are trying to think of a way to cover up the fact that you haven't practiced.   An A will sound. Your bow will grip the strings, draw the note out, and your hands will grasp at the pegs or fine-tuners at either end, bringing it to just the right pitch. Or, as close to the right pitch as possible--"Close enough for jazz," is what Mrs. Fayroian will say.   This room, this woman, this A-440 happened once a week, every week, spring, summer, winter, fall. This room and this woman were part of what raised me. And though I haven't seen either for close to half a decade now, I remember both as if I left them yesterday.   Present day: my sister and I meet Mrs. Fayroian and Mr. Roth, her husband and erstwhile director of the Second Street Academy of Music String Orchestra, at Panera on Drum Hill for dinner and reminiscing on Friday.   They tell me they will be retiring to Michigan soon. They tell me the room I remember has been packed away. "Oh, my goodness, where is that pillow?" Mrs. Fayroian laughs when I tell her what I remember.   But the two of them also look precisely the same as when I last saw them, which was at least five if not six years ago. He is tall and balding, but with wild hair around the edges. It is still completely brown--no gray at all. He wears glasses. He has heavy features and a low, fuzzy voice.   She is petite, with long brown hair--again, no hint of gray--and smiling gray eyes. And her hands are still my favorite thing about her.   I like to look at people's hands in general, and Mrs. Fayroian has the best ones I've ever seen. They are small and each knuckle and bone stands out, though the skin is smooth, un-wrinkled, in fact, drawn tight so that the hands are shiny, and they look well-worn, well-loved, polished. Which is exactly what they are. One joint on her ring finger sticks, locking her finger into position when she bends it a certain way. Small, straight, wicked-looking scars from carpal tunnel surgery traverse each of her palms.   Each of us have been given one set of hands. We should all use them so well, use them for such mileage, wear them and break them and let them evolve into other versions of themselves. Mrs. Fayroian's hands say she has accomplished something with her life.   Still, as we talk about politics and science and memories and teaching and middle school horror stories and, of course, music, Mrs. Fayroian does not appear to be sure of this.   "Roger and I know," she tells me and Chrissie, "that most of our students will not go on to do anything with music. That most of our students will be more affected by things we do with them that have nothing to do with music.   "So," she says, "It really makes us happy to know that we had an effect on you."   My sister seems not to know whether to hug her or yell.   "How could you not know that?" she finally cries, aghast.   And so it goes from sitting at the tables by the storefront windows while the late-afternoon sun blazes down into our eyes to eating panini sandwiches while the light fades to standing outside the door in the aromatic night, saying goodbyes...Again.   Mrs. Fayroian hugs me and stands back. She looks up at me and smiles her mischievous smile. "You are just such a great person," she says. "You always have been."   If it''s true, it's more a compliment to her than to me.