Stripping away the finish

My parents had only one item that was damaged during the move–their piano. Or more specifically, the finish on their piano. This is nothing short of miraculous considering the thing was stored in an unheated (closed) garage from September 2000 to August 2001.

The finish on the piano had always been kind of eccentric–“crazed” in the technical sense. A black grand piano, its back was covered with fine cracks in the lacquer that I had always thought were intentional. When it came out of storage, though, you could tell that it wasn’t intentional–the area that had been covered by the folded back lid was less cracked and a different color than the rest of the lid, and the cracking of the finish had accelerated badly. A number of the ivories had come off the keys, as well.

They had a piano refinisher come to look at it, and that’s when they got their first surprise. Based on the serial number, he believed it dated from the 1920s. Based on the color of the wood, which you could now see through the finish, he believed the case of the piano to be mahogany.

My parents sent it away to be refinished in its natural color. I spoke to them last night and they were thrilled. The piano case is a beautiful burled mahogany that was hidden for years under a bad ebony finish.

Sometimes, particularly as we try to pay the bills and live on one salary in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I wonder whether I did the right thing coming to “MIT Sloan”. But I think that I’m going to like the way my finish looks when I’m all done.