Piano Story Christmas 1999
I would like to share with you a true story which happened at Christmastime several years ago when our family was moving from our large country house south of Belleville, Ont. to Toronto. It was in the week between Christmas 1999 and New Year’s Eve of 2000, and what an absolutely crazy time of year to move, but the new owner had requested house possession specifically at this time.
One of my pieces of furniture, an antique 1875 Heintzman square grand piano, had to be sold. There wasn’t room for it in our new Toronto home – a condominium – and the new owner of our country house wasn’t interested in having it. The piano, measuring 7ft. by 3ft., was extremely heavy with a cast iron harp interior, and it sat up off the floor on four large ornately carved feet. It had taken six large men to carry it into our house! Although fully refinished and restored, it was a difficult item to dispose of due to its size, weight and “pre-modern” age.
In early November, I had started to advertise the piano in five publications – The Globe & Mail, The Toronto Star, two local newspapers, and an antique publication distributed across southern Ontario. I telephoned antique dealers and piano establishments locally and far away. In Toronto, I contacted Robert Lowrey’s, Remenyi House of Music, Heintzman Pianos Ltd., and Waddington’s Auctioneers. Every week I telephoned anyone who I thought might be interested – music teachers, antique lovers, antique dealers, singers, piano tuners, anyone musically-inclined, grand houses in the area either privately owned or county-run period houses, inns, B & B’s, furniture establishments, consignment establishments, etc. There was no response. I was running out of ideas and time was running out on me. Week after week passed by and I was praying fervently that God would provide a buyer. There were no calls. And Christmastime came.
We managed to celebrate Christmas Day and Boxing Day amid packing and chaos, but the day after Boxing Day, I had only three days before the movers were arriving on our doorstep at 9 AM. The piano was still sitting in the living room, unsold. I started phoning local museums to see if they’d take it off my hands. No interest – they already had several antique pianos.
The next morning I was at my wit’s end. I had two days before the movers were coming. It was after breakfast, and I was so exhausted, overwhelmed, and discouraged that I broke down crying. I prayed to God: “Dear God, I have tried everything I can think of. I can’t do anymore. Here, please take this piano – I’m giving it to you. You deal with it. Thank you, Amen.” That same day, mid-morning, I got a long distance phone call from Unionville north of Toronto. A lady wanted to know about the piano. She’d seen the ad in The Toronto Star. How much did I want for it? It was advertised at $2,000 or best offer. (I had invested more dollars than this into its purchase, restoration and refinishing.) “Well,” I said, “since I’m moving in two days, I’ll let it go for $1,000.” The lady said: “My husband and I will come and see it. We can get away from Unionville after lunch.” It was a three hour drive and she would telephone me at the 401 exit.
Now, it had started to snow heavily that morning. Southern Ontario was in the midst of bad snowstorms and treacherous roads. Parts of the 401 east of Toronto were closing. At 1PM, I got a phone call from the couple: “We’ve made it as far as Bowmanville, but we’re in a white-out. Can’t see where we’re going and we’re going to have to turn back. But we’ll come tomorrow morning.” Fine. OK. Another day gone, I thought in my head. But I believed in my heart that they were sincere. I hoped that they would eventually come.
The snow kept falling. A few hours later, I got another phone call from the couple. “We kept going,” she said. “We got off the highway, had lunch, and then decided to keep coming. We’re at Newcastle.” I told her that with the bad weather, it would take another couple of hours to reach the 401 turn-off to take to get to our house. The snow didn’t let up.
Just before suppertime, roughly 6PM, they called again. They were at the 401exit. Giving them directions to my place, I said that it would take them another hour. And about that time later, in the dark with the snow falling steadily, they drove up my country driveway in a pick-up truck. In they came to inspect the piano. I played it for them. “It’s very pretty,” the lady said. I left them alone to give them privacy, and ten minutes later, the lady came out of the room. Yes, they’d take it. Where was the nearest bank machine? They’d give me cash. Her husband had to drive to the nearest village, a ten minute drive away in good weather. He didn’t mind, and off he went.
Rounding up some heavy bodies to lift the piano out, my neighbour arrived with his two teenage sons, and with my two teenage sons, their friend and my husband, everyone helped. The ornate legs were unscrewed and the piano lifted and manoeuvred into the back of the pick-up truck. I supplied a tarpaulin to cover the piano. It was now 8:30PM and the snow continued to fall. Weren’t they concerned to drive back, I asked? Did they want to stay overnight? No, no, they said, they’d take their time, they were fine, they weren’t concerned about the weather, they wanted to get back home that night. Off they drove down the drive in a snowy swirl. Less than twelve hours from the time when I had said my prayer that morning, when I had handed over to God the piano, it was gone from my house and I had $1,000 cash in my hand.
This incident taught me two things:
First, I was struck how God cared about me as an individual, and that my problem was not too big to handle or too small to resolve. God knew precisely where I lived on the map of this world, and who to send from within a radius in the whole province of Ontario. God knew who and what to connect. I thought: “God cares about me. God knows where I am and what’s happening. God cares about me in a personal way. God is not distant, not far away. God knows all about me and God cares.”
Second, this incident taught me to trust in God’s care. To really give it over. I had been praying about the piano like this: “Dear God, I’ve just contacted so and so – please let them go for it. Dear God, I’ve just phoned Lowrey’s – please let them buy it. Dear God, I’ve talked to the museums – please let them take it and give me a tax receipt.” Now, I’m learning to pray like this: “Dear God, here it is. Please take care of it.” As hard as it is, I’m trying to stop figuring things out myself so much and asking God to bless my endeavours. I’m learning to just hand it over.
Rev. Mary Fletcher