There, it was. She lived here. I nervously gazed upwards. I saw a white house with sea-green shingles. My father gently nudged me, “Heidi, it’s time. Let’s go in.” We cautiously opened the door of the white picket fence, climbed up the weather-beaten steps, and rang the brass doorbell.
We heard footsteps make their way. The door creaked as it opened. I looked at the elderly woman and started to feel less afraid. Her face broke into a wide smile and she said, “ Here is my new piano student! Hello, Heidi. I am Mrs. Ridgeway.”
Mrs. Ridgeway was an imposing figure. Her snow-white, thick, long hair was wrapped in a bun. She wore a black dress and formal dress pumps. She guided me into her living room and then shepherded me into the adjacent room. I saw the piano and became a little tentative. She noticed my hesitation.
“Let’s break the ice,” Mrs. Ridgeway said. “Heidi, please tell me about yourself, and I will tell you about myself.”
I proceeded to describe my family and pets in colorful detail. Mrs. Ridgeway politely allowed me to end my tales. She then offered some of her own personal history. She told me that she was in her eighties and a survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. On the day after the earthquake, and in order to be safe, she and her family temporarily moved to these outer portions of San Francisco. In those days, San Francisco consisted of sand dunes. Wild horses were galloping around.
I was mesmerized. Mrs. Ridgeway interrupted my thoughts. “Heidi, let’s start playing, and I can tell you more stories later.” And, so she did.
During the next two years, Mrs. Ridgeway continued to be my piano teacher. She became much more. Mrs. Ridgeway became my friend. When I was not practicing musical snippets from Beethoven, Schuman, and Mozart, I spent time with Mrs. Ridgeway. Mrs. Ridgeway taught me many important things. She introduced me to Scrabble and Monopoly. She coached me on the finer points of checkers and dominos. We even dabbled in backgammon.
I remember her signature orange marmalade. There was a little cozy sitting area near the kitchen curtain, and I observed her preparations from that vantage point. Mrs. Ridgeway worked quickly and each time produced something glorious.
My time with Mrs. Ridgeway came to a rather abrupt end, when a family tragedy called her up to Oregon. Always one to be available to others, Mrs. Ridgeway proceeded to sell her home. Before she left, she tried to find a piano teacher for me. It was her fervent desire that I did not give up the piano. I was not ready to let another teacher take Mrs. Ridgeway’s special place. I knew that I would eventually return to the piano again. The image of the white house with sea-green shingles would never leave me, and I was thankful to be right.