My parents have made certain investments that I knew of, both in mine and their lives. Cars are one. The few that they bought have served our family for close to decades; education, no doubt..
But there is no one investment they made that could beat the piano that they bought many years ago. It's a Young Chang piano, Korean imported. It would never produce the quality of the tone as fantastic as a Petrof or Yamaha, but it's still a very fine piano alright.
First time I sat on the piano chair, I was 3. All I could remember about those days were how I'd just randomly hit the keys and laugh to myself at the funny and weird sound it made. My legs were way too short back to touch the floor back then, so I'd sit with my whole buttock on the chair and let both legs dangle in mid air. After all, I hadn't much use of the pedals anyway.
The piano was my imagination. After watching Disney cartoons, I'd walk back up to the piano and play the songs I heard. Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Pocahontas were my favourites. And as I played, I would imagine myself as the prince saving the beautiful princess, or be the little soldier in the movie fighting his way past evil monsters to get to the castle where the sleeping beauty slept.
Growing older, when imaginations of rescuing princesses faded and realities started sinking in, I still imagined myself as a little conductor, orchestrating a masterpiece for the movie makers. Playing on the high-pitched keys were like flutes, trumpets, strings, melodious and sweet; low-pitched notes sounded like trombones, bass, percussions, evil, dark, dangerous. It was a little child's imagination that kept that black shiny piano in my home always working, and it was a simple piano that painted my life with many beautiful colours.
Having such privilege of growing up in the world of music and sounds, I now realized that my piano actually taught me more than just music lessons. For one, the piano made me realize how much my parents mean to me. Back when my dad was still working, he could afford to send me for music lessons and exams. My last exam was the Trinity diploma. On payment day, I was with my mother in my lecturer's office when she took out a wad of cash and counted it in front of my huge eyes as she passed it to the teacher. Driving away from the music school, all that my mom said was, practice hard and don't waste our money, ok?
I was 14 back then. Money was no longer something that was so casual-looking like water or paper. I was old enough to understand how hard it was for my dad to earn every dollar, especially after being in his lab before and seeing what he has to do each day. For the first time in my life, I got serious about what I was doing. It was an examination alright, and I had to do well.
In the months that led to the exam, I would occasionally wake up from nightmares of failing my diploma test. It wasn't a nice feeling, and it was no fun. Dreams have always been something very real to me, and in those few dreams I remembered waking up to, I always woke up with sweat dropping from my temple and eyes moist and red.
God, please don't let me fail. Please.
I could say that it wasn't those nightmares that kept me practicing even when my hands were sore and the blisters popped all over my fingertips. Maybe it was the fear of not passing, but I couldn't fail as long as my parents were paying. I could not allow myself to let them down, neither could I afford to waste the money that they spent on me.
Now as I write, I look back on those many hours spent with the piano. Sacrificing time to myself, effort and energy, I realized all that I did and all that I earned wasn't for my own self. It was an act of love for my parents. As much as they coughed out that colossal sum of money for my exam and classes out of love, it was just the only way I could have showed them that I love them too. No way I could actually repay their love. It sounds ridiculous even to think of paying them back for all the sleepless nights they went through and all the tears and blood poured out for a son who brought so much pain to them.
Eventually, by God's grace, I passed my piano exam. Though I never verbalized it, though they congratulated me and heaped me with praises, the one thing that I wished I told them earlier on before they gave me the credit for working hard, was this:
It's not about me, it's the both of you. It's your credit, it's your achievement.
Once in a while I will still go home when I'm fed-up of life in college. But there too will be the days when I wished I never did go home. Home now reminds me of all that my dad still has to go through to put bread on our table. Now working private, he works odd hours, travelling from state to state in a truck, works overtime and sometimes have to go back to the factory in the middle of the night to load goods off lorries.
And one night, while waiting for my dad to come home, I cried thinking of how he still has to struggle for us. God, why do you let all these still happen to my dad? It's never fair, and life's never going to be fair. It's always my dad that suffers first from the government, and now the private work, how about later?
He came back at 3am, tired, in pain from loading the goods - 15 tonnes of fertilizer bags - and soaked in his own sweat. He went to take a bath, and coming out, while getting ready to sleep, I hugged him as usual.
Papa, I'm sorry, I blurted.
My dad was perplexed. Sorry for what?
And I walked out of the room. I turned away, not because I didn't have an answer, but because I didn't him to see me cry again. I'm sorry for not being able to help you. I'm sorry that I'm the reason why you still have to suffer so much. I'm sorry that I would never be able to take care of you and mummy yet. Just give me a few more years, a few more years and I promise things will change for the better. But for now, I'm so sorry.
Crying myself to sleep, it somehow dawned to me that if only things weren't the way it is now, I would never be able to keep pushing myself to do better, and work harder for a better tomorrow. But I must say, that these love and struggles that I could relate to, all started the very day my parents bought the piano. It was God's magical way of showing me who really matters to me, and led me to understand that all I did was not for myself, but for them. The piano reminded me, that some things in life are just worth investing in. Or should I simply say that my parents never really did invest in a piano, they invested into me and my brother. That's the greatest investment they ever made.