By Snow Brooks
I was only 14 years old when my mother and I traveled to Europe as American tourists. Our first stop was a 2 week stay in London and Mom had already given me the When in Rome, do as the Romans lecture. For months before our departure she’d preached the etiquette of each country to ensure I was properly prepared and wouldn’t embarrass myself with some cultural faux pas.
Twelve days in London and I had managed to blend in well! No one suspected I was American until I opened my mouth and my Southern drawl made it blatantly obvious. As long as my lips were sealed, I had everyone fooled or at least I did until I met the Piano Man.
You see, Piano Man wasn’t your run-of-the-mill musician. He was a pianist at one of the swankest restaurants I’d ever set foot in. All decked out in tuxedo and bow-tie with manicured salt and pepper hair that looked like it took days to perfect.
As Mom and I dined, I became enamored with the guy’s performance. His fingers danced across the keys with effortless grace and, as a 4th generation pianist, I appreciated his abilities. Mom was a pianist too and understood why I kept gawking at Mr. Mozart and his flying fingers.
It wasn’t just his talent that had my attention. While he performed, Piano Man would sway and lean toward me, the weird girl who kept staring at him, and flash his pearly whites.
Was he playing just for me now? Perhaps he could see how much I appreciated his musical abilities.
He grinned again just before flowing into a new song. An American song! Yes, Mr. Piano-dude was definitely playing this one for me! He must have overheard the twang of my accent.
There was a glass globe with money next to him, so I strolled over and tipped the gentleman. His smile widened as he continued playing my song. I was so honored that I decided to sing the lyrics to show my appreciation.
I began, “My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.”
Why was Piano Man frowning?
I went on, “Land where my fathers died.”
Why was Mom making cut-throat gestures?
“Land of the pilgrims’ pride,” my voice trickled off, sounding more like a question.
Why were one hundred angry eye-balls of fellow diners glued to me?
I cringed, press my lips together, and skulked back over to my chair.
Mom’s face was beet red. “What on Earth are you doing?” she chastised.
“I was singing. America. You know,” I explained with an innocent shoulder-shrug.
“That’s not America,” she breathed through ventriloquist teeth. “Here, it’s God Save the Queen!” she informed, hiding her eyes behind a palm.
“Oh,” I sunk into my chair, feeling like the one who needed saving.