On a narrow street in a small city in Idaho there lived an unassuming little lady who saved our family’s musical bacon.
She really did. No two ways about it.
Ruth Farkas of Koster Street.
She was a missing puzzle piece we didn’t know we needed.
At one point we had three kids in instruction with Mrs. Farkas–three very different kids–who responded well to her and thrived under her methodology and didn’t balk at going to lessons. Yes, even the one who usually had to be cattle-prodded to get in the car to go anywhere. I jest. Don’t get all wide-eyed.
She didn’t have a large studio with multiple pianos and electronics to dazzle. Her living room was home to a grand piano that took up way more than half the space, a small spinet, and a few chairs for waiting students (and for moms who opted indoors rather than freeze to death sitting in the car during an eastern Idaho horizontal blizzard.) Her quiet husband, Stephen, whose presence could be felt in the house but who never disturbed lessons, would be going about his projects here and there, and on recital days at their United Methodist Church, would see to the filling of the punch bowl and the replenishing of the cookie plate. Sunshine poured through the front plate glass window. It was an altogether pleasant place.
Before relocating to Idaho Falls, our family of six lived in a few other locales all over the country and if there’s anything worse for a mother than having to change school districts or pediatricians, it’s the task of finding a piano teacher for the kids. My blood pressure starts thumping in my temples just thinking about it. Am I ever glad to be done with that! And when children of multiple ages and multiple schedules need lesson times that squeeze into their already cramped calendars, Mom knows that she may as well just stay planted in the driver’s seat of the Suburban and have her meals brought to her. Seriously.
Mrs. Farkas never flinched. She never got ruffled at our schedule. We worked it out. Lessons happened and forgiveness came quickly if we needed to pull a switcheroo. I was so afraid she’d fire us from her studio that I nearly curtsied when I had to ask for a schedule change. She was gracious and kind. The thought did cross my mind years later as I reflected back (by that time I’d experienced several other teachers far less accommodating) that maybe my dad whose checkbook paid for the grandchildren’s lessons during those years may have bought her a timeshare in the Bahamas, but no, I think she was just plain nice.
This world we live in would do better with more Mrs. Farkases. Weirdly, I am going to include a link to her obituary in this post, not that I esteem her more highly than other wonderful folks in my life, but because I want you to see the seemingly mild yet profound life she lived. Her obituary is not long. It’s not flowery. There’s not one bit of gush to it. It tells the basics, the surface, of what this nice little lady did with her 86 years on earth. No one in their right mind, though, would think that her whole story was in those words. Eighty-six years is adequate time to include sadness, strife, fear, disappointment, grief, and layer upon layer of the darker sides of life. What she was remembered for, though, was beautiful and straightforward, her accomplishments being almost a second thought to her relationships and devotion to music. Read about her, won’t you?
These musings about this lady have been sitting in my drafts waiting for their chance at the “publish” button for about a year. I was going to hit the little trash can button instead because my brain was all settled on the next post being the last. Sorry. I just couldn’t let Mrs. Farkas go into the trash. She deserves more. So thanks for listening.
I believe the attraction of her memory to me is that of peace. Simplicity. But friends, never confuse simplicity with a simple mind or lack of excitement. Some of the most peaceful, simple, and focused folks I know have been through the wringer. Dragged through a knothole sideways.
For now, just to please me, (like I’ll even know) maybe you can think of someone in your past or your present that makes you want to emulate their way of living — even if you’re watching her — as I was — in a small city, on a narrow street, in a little house with too many pianos and a love-of-her-life husband she is growing old with. Oh, and Mrs. Farkas loved Jesus, make no mistake. Please remember that she was a long-time member of a denomination that makes an art of keeping their emotions in check, so she did not openly or demonstratively speak to faith often. That makes not a whit of difference to me. She lived it.
That’s it. I had a few words to say about a neat lady. She deserved my time and a “publish” button.
Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord . Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
Psalms 34:11-14 NLT
P.S. Next time I come to you will be the final time. Currently I’m swimming up to my neck in it so it will be at least a few days if not a couple of weeks. We want to go out with a bang, don’t we, and not a whimper? Until then, as the Psalmist tells us above, “search for peace, and work to maintain it.”