The after dinner piano recital is equal parts digestion and dread.

This is the time when the dishes have been whisked away and the younger set have been rounded up to entertain the elders.

“Oh, not again,” I remember looking out at my family, perched on couches with full bellies while butterflies churned in mine, and I really liked them all but then they always got such fiendish pleasure trotting us out to perform like trained seals starting with my annoying little cousin, always ready to squeak out something on her clarinet while I choked on a dumpling.

She was lucky, I thought resentfully. All she had to do was remember the melody of a song. Me, I was terrified of losing my way through a million notes.

“Think of catching grasshoppers,” said my piano teacher, one day. Suddenly, learning the notes became more of a game. With bugs. It was fun.

A Debussy toccata became a handful of fireflies, Bach fugues were wrestling spiders, Scott Joplin rags leapfrogged across the keyboard. Playing the piano was a joy.

And with every joyful act, fear fades.

Make no mistake, the butterflies of the after dinner piano recital are no match for a fistful of grasshoppers.

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