Enduring Mrs. Higgins

Mrs. Higgins’s smile could have been for me. But my attitude toward piano lessons had not been grand. So it was Jenny whose concerted efforts had paid off.

Mrs. Higgins never missed a piano lesson. Every Tuesday afternoon at precisely 3:30 P.M. her big, white sedan would round the corner and come to a halt in front of our house.

She’d march up the driveway in her grandma shoes with that leather clasp purse hanging from her arm and her hair pulled neatly into a bun. I’d hear her firm knock, the front door opening and footsteps in the hallway. Then my mother’s sweet voice would summon me to my doom.

Mrs. Higgins was convinced I was one of her most talented students. Of course, she never knew how little effort I put into my practices because I always performed to her satisfaction.

Each lesson began with a recital of the pieces I had practiced that week. I’d play; and if the music had words, she’d sing in her loud, clear opera voice. If there were no words, she’d count out loud. Occasionally she was silent as I performed a piece particularly well.

I wasn’t the only child in the neighborhood whose parents employed Mrs. Higgins. There were Lisa and Brian Baccus and Charlie, Beverly, and Jenny Bradley. I felt especially sorry for the Bradleys because Mrs. Higgins was at their house for almost two hours each week.

The older I got the more intensely I begged my mother to let me quit. After seven years of complaining, I finally convinced her to cancel the lessons. I was free.

Several years later my mother asked if I would accompany her to a piano concert at an art gallery in Sacramento where Jenny Bradley would be performing. I remembered her as the funny little girl who always forgot her piano pieces at the yearly recitals. She never was very good.

When Jenny came out on stage, I was surprised to see that the little freckle-faced girl was all grown-up. She seated herself at the grand piano and began to play. The piano sang out and sounded like the work of three pianists. I’d never witnessed such energy, such concentration.

As I listened, I glanced around the room at the small crowd of people. Then I saw her—Mrs. Higgins—leaning against a marble pillar near the back of the room. She looked older, but her eyes sparkled and she glowed with true happiness.

“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord” (James 5:11).

Suddenly, my eyes filled with tears. Though I should have been happy to see someone perform to the best of her ability, I wasn’t. I was jealous. Why wasn’t I sitting at that piano? After all, I had been more talented than Jenny. Deep down inside, I knew I’d failed because I’d given up.

“Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life” (3 Ne. 15:9).

Two people who had paid the price were getting their reward. Jenny was playing brilliantly and Mrs. Higgins, who never missed a lesson, glowed with the knowledge that she had made a pianist.

[photos] Photography by Craig Dimond