A Loaf of Rye Bread A Day

33 years ago my mom said I had to have piano lessons.


My mom is professional pianist.  As is my Grandma.  And neither one wanted to give me piano lessons.  Have you ever tried to teach someone you are related to a skill?  It is a separate level of hell.  For all involved.

But.  It was determined I had to have piano lessons.

And that is how I was dumped on Jean Thompson.

Unbeknownst her I was a bratty kid.  I was too good for piano.  My mom played piano.  Not me.

Jean didn’t care.  She loved me anyway.  And actually taught me how to play.  I walked into her house, and Jean had this…. little voice, and it was so sweet.  And she told me how to put my hands.  And how to play.  And told me all the time that I was doing just fine.  (I wasn’t.  But Jean was always very supportive.)  I My first recital I played The Peanuts Theme Song.

I still remember the hand placement.

Jean passed this afternoon.

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Some of you don’t know this, but Roxi is her daughter.  Interestingly, when I started talking about The Butter Churn, I didn’t know Roxi.  We’re similar in age, but just different enough that we missed each other growing up.  Folks often ask if I knew Roxi before the store.  And the answer is:  No.  But Yes.  Because I’ve always known Roxi because I knew her mama.

Roxi and I used to tell ourselves that we had to open the store before her Mama or my G’ma died.  So that they could see it for themselves.  We desperately wanted them at the Grand Opening.  And they were there.  At least we did that.

I saw Jean just a couple of weeks ago.  She was frail.  And her skin was so thin in places.  And she smiled at me and said in her wonderfully raspy-haven’t-smoked-in-a-million-years-sweet-voice “STEPH!  I eat a loaf of rye bread a day!”

It was the only thing that tasted good to her.

Thank god we had that for her.  And she could send up her grandkids to get it, or call Roxi to bring some home.

(please don’t anyone ever ask me again why we would ever want to open a store in a small town where we will never make a million dollars but we will feed the people who live there.  DON’T EVER ASK ME AGAIN.  if you can’t figure out the answer…. I’m sorry.  You haven’t loved and lived enough.)

Jean – I love you.  Thank you for playing piano, and loving all of us.  We already miss you so so much.  I have a difficult time imagining Woodhull without you.  And I’m so grateful you were there for some of our events.  Watching you be proud of Roxi, and the store, and the town…  So Good.

The phone at the store is going to be very quiet now.  I think you called us the most.  I loved picking up the phone to hear how your day was going.

I don’t know how to end this with a ribbon, besides maybe just saying Thank You.  You were hands down the most optimistic and enthusiastic person I have ever met.  You beamed with Joy.  Thank You.

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