When I was five years old my dad told me that a wooden piano slide could fly through the air like a magic carpet, and I believed him.
He was lying on his belly across the homemade seven-foot piano slide like a surfer and I was perched up on his back right there in the middle of unpaved, dead-end Benjamine Street. He pointed to the space between the slats and the runners and said “If you crumble up some of them sycamore leaves and stuff them in there, this thing’ll float right up to the sky”.
I remember how disappointed I was when that old oak frame with dirty carpet tacked onto it didn’t take flight after I fed it handfuls of fresh green leaves and sycamore balls. But for a moment there was not a flicker of doubt in my mind that it would raise right up off the gravel, in just another second.
When I was sixteen I started working on the moving truck in the summers and a couple of years after high school, and decided I was going to college and study science! I was going to be so much more than just a furniture mover. I had purpose. Aspirations. My future lay far away from East Durham and the stubborn old man. I put myself through college because somewhere along the way, I had learned something from someone about hard work and sacrifice to get what you want. My life actually would take me around the world, and I would eventually find my way right back to the blue gravel on Benjamine Street.
Forty years later I think of that short moment siting on a piano slide with my dad in the middle of the road, every time I tie down a piano to that same creaky old slide. And I realize how my young father taught me how to use my imagination that day.
On December 31st of this year, J.E. Ladd IV will retire as caretaker of our 131 year old family business after almost 50 years of backbreaking work.
When I was five years old my dad told me that a piano slide could fly through the air like a magic carpet, and I believed him. And if you don’t…you should see him move a grand piano.