I played the piano for some twelve years, all the way from kindergarten through high school. I hated to practice, and I would find ways of sneaking mystery novels onto the music stand, held open by my music books, sliding them over to cover my Agatha Christies whenever my mother came downstairs to check on me. In order to do this successfully, you have to memorize the music and learn to play without looking at the keys, following the intricate clues to the murder while your fingers ran through the smooth arpeggios and fluttering trills. Still, I kept playing because I loved it, because it was a part of me and I could not bear to stop.
There are so many things about The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt that I love, so much that even now, nearly twenty years after I first read it, I come back to it again and again. It is a children's book, about first love and music and learning to see yourself and the world around you. I love how Minna's brother understands that even though she hates to practice she plays the cello because she loves it. I felt the same way. I loved the way the Bach inventions twisted around me like tangled vines, the intertwining melodies capturing my soul, enrapturing my heart. (Even as I did everything to avoid practicing). Those clear notes, each separate and distinct and yet coming together in one fluid motion, like an unraveling bolt of silk sliding across the floor.
I love how MacLachlan describes how Minna falls in love, how she "eases into love as she eases into a Bach cello suite, slowly and carefully, frowning all the while." I have felt that way, felt love welling up around me like the cool notes of Bach composition, like sliding into clear water. Now I look back and wonder if I understood that then, if I could see myself and my feelings as clearly as Minna does. Or even if I do now. I wonder if I knew then that even though sometimes I felt as though the people who loved me didn't see me, didn't hear me, didn't understand me at all, I would come to realize that they knew me more completely than I could imagine.
When I read these books from my childhood, I feel safe and innocent and protected, if only for a moment. And I wonder, what did I know then, understand then, that I have since forgotten? How facts and fictions are different truths. How slipping into love is like playing a Bach cello suite. I am listening to one now (the music coming from my laptop makes the keyboard vibrate beneath my fingers), and I feel the notes vibrating in my heart the way MacLachlan's words do when I read them. That beautiful sound of the cello, smooth and round and clear, pure in the way only Bach is. Pure the way only literature written for children can be.