Happy Ending

Look, I don't want to seem dramatic, but if the story of my last four years were a movie, what happened on Saturday night would be the ending:

My mother wanted to go and see Darrell Grant play piano on Saturday night, so we all went. He'd invited us the week before, after my recital. When we got there, Darrell was in the middle of a piece, but he spotted me and a little "Mike!" escaped from him. He seemed actually glad that we'd showed up. He then announced that he was going to play a song called My Romance. Having said that, his body bent in concentration and he started playing, of all things, the Promenade from Moussourgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, the very same piece I had played for my recital the previous Sunday. He used the melody for as the introduction, just as I had, and then in his solo, he took the melody through various little improvisations and whatnot, just as I had attempted to. I can't really describe to you what it felt like to have him make that little gesture toward me. Here's this man, this man who I've spent the last few years just trying to wring even a "Good Job!" out of, who had pushed me and even yelled at me at times, paying homage to me in the most intimate of ways: with a musical gesture. My eyes started to tear up. I felt so happy. At first I thought he was fucking with me, but when the piece finished, he smiled and pointed at me. Then he bust into Pent Up House, which was another of my recital pieces. Before that night I thought I'd squeaked by at PSU. I thought they'd kind of written me off as someone who was never going to master jazz, who was a bit of a tourist in thier world, a hack who was just passing through. So they tolerated my presence and let me slip through their system. I didn't think all of this because I was insecure, but because of the way they treated me: yelling at me at juries, giving the other students compliments and letting my accomplishments slip by. But at that moment I knew I was wrong. It was perfectly clear that Darrell Grant respected me, and even better, maybe he even acknowledged that I had worked hard and had talent, even if I was, as I said earlier, no Van Cliburn. It almost seemed for a moment like he saw me as a peer. It meant a lot to me what he did. I'll never ever forget it. It wasn't passing finals, sitting among an oil slick of graduates and looking up at the frantically waving parents, or even hanging my tassel up on my refrigerator door that made all of my hard work at PSU worth it. It was Darrell Grant making that little nod. That's what made it worth it. That was my happy ending. And they lived happily ever after.