Normally, when someone opens a conversation with this declaration, I tune out immediately, because what inevitably follows is one, or more, of the following inane variations:
… I used to play the piano when I was younger but I quit.
… my grandfather/grandmother/father/mother played the piano.
…. I was in orchestra/band in high school/college.
… my cousin plays the trombone/some other unrelated instrument.
… about this Asian (unfortunately, sometimes Oriental is used) pianist named (insert mangled sound of a non-Asian person trying to say an Asian person’s name), do you happen to know him/her?
It’s not that I don’t care.
But rather, I don’t care to engage in a conversation that presumes we have a lot more in common based on a faulty kind of logical pretext.
So when she ends her “I have to tell you … “ with “that you are my favorite pianist,” I am startled.
She says I probably don’t remember her, which I do not, but that I played for her daughter’s wedding 7 years ago.
She remembers me because her father had played, and having me there was like having him there, so similar were our musical styles, influences and affectations.
She also remembers that I showed up and was brilliant, joyful and exuberant, despite the fact that my own partner had passed barely a few months ago.
She elaborates that staff had volunteered this information which I had kept private, and she had meant to tell me on the day itself, but couldn’t, because she was so choked up with emotion, seeing me unknowingly giving so much more to her family, in spite of my personal grief.
And finally, she is glad she now has this chance to say thank you, and to express what I have truly meant to her.
I have to tell you … I’m grateful for this gracious, humbling and fortifying experience