The Magic Piano

The piano was a grand, not a Steinway or a Fazioli, but like them it had the tall, delicate legs of a racehorse and a curve that made me want to trace its shape through the air with my finger, the way writing the letter S makes me want to hold a paintbrush. Despite its narrow legs, the piano did not teeter as the impeccable Swiss waiter carried it through the sun-filled room on a silver platter and set it down before me. I was seven years old and sitting with my mother, as I did every afternoon that summer, at a small round table at Confiserie Sprüngli in Zurich, perhaps the most famous temple of chocolate in Switzerland and certainly one of the oldest. Sunlight poured in through the tall second-floor windows that opened onto Paradeplatz—a grand old square bustling with trolleys and shoppers—bathing the café in warmth and cheer. Chandeliers, fine white porcelain, and a constant stream of hot chocolate topped with peaks of whipped cream to rival the Matterhorn only added to the room’s charmed grandeur. I remember music, sometimes a pianist, sometimes a quartet; perhaps it was only my imagination, but the music remains very real to me.

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