In college, I signed up for a semester of piano lessons - I was a self-taught piano player in need of formal instruction. My first day of lessons, I was nervous. I walked into the studio and introduced myself to the teacher, a short, stout woman with dyed brown hair and a gentle smile. When she asked me if I had any previous training, I told her I was self-taught. So she asked me to play a song for her. I hadn’t thought to bring any sheet music with me so I plunked out the one song I knew by heart --- the hymn “A Poor Way-Faring Man Of Grief”.
After I played, she was quiet for a moment. Then she tilted her head and with a smile, asked me “Are you Mormon?”.
Shit, I thought, my fingers frozen on the white keys. I stammered out that I was not a Mormon but my entire family was. My heart was racing in my chest and my body began to shake as I anticipated the condemnation that was sure to come.
“My daughter left the Church.” she said. “It was a long time before she felt comfortable telling all of us that she didn’t believe.” The tension in my body released by a fraction.
I took three semesters of piano lessons from her. We had an unspoken agreement not to discuss religion. Occasionally she would broach the subject in a very non-confrontational manner. She did tell me about some of her family reunions; from what I gathered, the extended family had judged her daughter harshly for leaving. She told me that there were times when she had to stand up for her daughter, times when she had to remind the family that her daughter was the same sweet girl she had always been.
My piano teacher was a lot like my mother -- a woman with a big heart, trying to live the best life she knew how.