ain’t my baby grand

Three years old.

I can hardly believe it, but Indiana is already 3 years old.

What do you get a child for their birthday who has everything? Everything that is… except a mama.

I got her a piano.


Some stories are easy to tell with just a couple pictures and a few paragraphs, but some take bit more... like this one.

My sister Marcy gave Indy a toy piano for Christmas a few months ago, and I gave her a real one for her birthday. Actually, I got it for all of us... for our whole family. But it happened because of Indiana’s birthday. Well that, and a little bit of magic... I’ll get to that later.

Indiana’s third birthday was a little over a week ago and Joey’s parents and all three sisters came down from Indiana to share in the big day...


And since the weather was mild that evening (like it has been most of this winter), we had a cookout on the back deck with family and just a few friends…


Much like last year’s birthday in Indiana, Indy had more presents to open than any three-year-old could ever imagine. They came from all overgifts in the mail from strangersand packages left at the front gate or at Marcy Jo’s. All for a little girl that none of them know, but feel like she’s a part of their family…


After hamburgers and hotdogs, we came inside and made wishes and blew out candles…


and Indy’s big sisters and cousins helped her open her gifts…


Afterwards, we all made our way into the living room where I’d had a new, old piano delivered a few days before. The piano was built in 1926, but the story of the piano and the reason it is now here in our house dates back to much earlier than that…


In 1999, a few months after I bought this old farmhouse we live in, I started researching the family who built the house in 1870’s (Calvin and Sarah Hardison, who are buried in the cemetery in the back field near Joey). And I came across an old history book from this area that said that Calvin and Sarah’s two youngest daughters, Mollie and Veva Hardison, were schoolteachers... but it also said they were well-known songwriters and that some of their songs were published in the 1890’s.

How strange is that? That two sisters (who were in the late teens and early twenties at the time) were making music and writing songs in this farmhouse a hundred years before our family moved in and I started writing songs in it? For me, back then, it wasn’t just irony... it was clearly a sign that this was the house we were supposed to live in. Part of the beautiful, ‘magical’ story that God has given us.

Anyway, I never heard anything more about those ladies or them being songwriters for the next seventeen years, until our sweet neighbor Jan Harris (who babysits Indy for me) came over just before Christmas with a great big gift in her arms. It was a piece of Mollie Hardison’s original sheet music from 1894 that Jan had found in the Marshall County archives and had framed for me...


I can’t begin to explain how special that was. The song is called “Veva And I” and it’s about Mollie and her sister growing up together here in the farmhouse. I hung it on the mantle above the big fireplace in our living room…


And since Miss Mollie and Miss Veva would’ve written songs on a piano back then, I decided that there needed to be one in our house again…


Besides the sheet music and history and Indy’s birthday, there are other reasons too…

First off, Joey and I want Indy to grow up loving music and learning to play an instrument. Who knows, maybe someday write her own songs on this piano, or at least have fun trying to learn to play it. Another reason is because with all that’s happened in our lives, there hasn’t been any new music in the house for a long time, and having a piano sitting in the middle of the living room might encourage there to be some. Our middle daughter Hopie has been already trying to learn to play some songsand every evening before bedtime, Indy sits beside me and we ‘play’ together. I play chords down low and Indy pushes on the high keys while I tell her what notes they are. She smiles and giggles. It’s precious. I can play piano a little bit (a few chords, etc.), but not much. Maybe that old piano will help me in some way too.

Okay, now back to Indiana’s 3rd birthday party...

After cake and presents, we gathered in the living room as one of my closest friends, James Slater, played the first songs on “Mollie,” our new, old piano. James has been a friend of mine since I first moved to Nashville. He too is a songwriter and has written some big hits like “In My Daughter’s Eyes” and others. But more importantly, James has been part of some very important moments in our lives. He played piano as friends and family walked into the church on our wedding day... and he played as they again walked into the service for Joey’s funeral... and so of course, he wanted him to be here for this special day too.

As James sang a song he wrote called “Ain’t My Baby Grand,” our little Indiana danced by herself…


And she danced with her Papa…


And since I can’t read music, we pulled the sheet music down and Hopie and I held it while James played and sang us Mollie’s song. It was so beautiful…


Yes, Indiana’s birthday was wonderful, but we were all also a little sad... missing Joey. Wishing she could be here with us. But like always, in our hearts we felt like she was. That she was celebrating and singing along and dancing with all of us.

Happy birthday Indy.

We love you.

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