Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.
12

Oct 2017

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The key to moving a piano is having someone else do it

The key to moving a piano is having someone else do it

It was my first major purchase, the Steinway upright piano I bought shortly after starting my first real job in television. The piano was eight years old then, its harp and keys broken in by an Ohio man who had played it for hours every day and who was trading up to a baby grand.

That piano has followed me around, from that first townhouse in Ohio where I played it most days, to an apartment in Pittsburgh’s East Hills where it was the most expensive thing in the building, to an old farmhouse in the North Hills where its bench stored baby books, to an old Victorian along the Ohio River where my kids’ grandmother gave weekly lessons. Just writing all of that reminds me that I don’t stay put for long, and that I don’t like the process of moving.

Yesterday, three strong young men arrived at that Victorian house to escort my Steinway to its next home. We’ve downsized to a smaller home a bit farther north, the furniture move done by the farmer and my son and a sturdy pickup truck. But any hopes of our family moving the piano ourselves were dashed the day I tried to help the farmer move it 10 feet closer to the front door without gouging the new hardwood. My piano has a cast iron harp and weighs 800 pounds. A half-foot felt like a half-mile. I was no help.

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05

Oct 2017

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When the slang becomes the story

When the slang becomes the story

It was the first day of graduate journalism school at Northwestern University, when the professor set us all straight.

“It’s not filming,” he said. “TV news stopped using film years ago.”

We all knew that. In the '70s, local television news departments switched from cumbersome and slow film cameras to video, which was fast and easier.

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28

Sep 2017

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Reviving early memories

Reviving early memories, at least once a month

At least once a month my daughter asks me to tell her a story from when she was a toddler. I rotate between three stories that my memory has kept as the funniest and most vivid.

There’s the one where she locked herself in the bathroom and cut off all the hair on the top of her head; the one where she ran practically naked up the street to the corner when she heard her brother’s school bus; and the one where she changed in and out of princess frocks a dozen times in one day.

I have photos of none of this, but she has her own mental snapshots, moments she’s constructed from my stories, which add color and texture with each telling. Her earliest memories don’t go back that far, and so she has knitted my recollections into the fabric of an early childhood. She concludes, only partially correctly, that she was headstrong, lively, and a bit of a pill.

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14

Sep 2017

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Mighty sounds from little acorns grow

They come all hours of the day and night, crackly popping sounds that set the wheels of imagination turning. When the sun is out, the noises enter the ears as benign nature sounds. But at night, when the quiet of the house amplifies even small sounds, the mind goes to other places.

It’s the first week in the new house, a smallish ranch on a large wooded lot. As with all new houses, this place has strange smells and corners and noises. It took days before I remembered to turn right from the living space to get to the cellar steps and not left. Left takes you to the cul de sac of bedrooms.

It was in the small bedroom that the noises first came, the occasional popping that seemed to come from the side of the house. A herd of deer – and I mean a herd, because there are two does, a buck and four fawns – live in the side yard: could the crackly popping be theirs? There was that one mother deer that stomped and whistled at the farmer when he looked at her.

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