Rhythm

I love to sing and dance. The problem is I can’t carry a tune in a wet paper bag, and I was born with two left feet. My singing is so bad that my husband asks me not to sing in the shower. As for dancing, that doesn’t bother him so much. You see Jeff is a little over 6’ tall and I’m a little under 5 feet. When we dance, as long as I’m not stepping on the tops of his feet, he’s gazing around looking over my head watching what’s going on while I’m looking at the 3rd or 4th button on his shirt – and trying to lead.

 I credit my parents with my love of song and dance. Our home was always filled with music: pop, swing, rhythm and blues, opera – you name it. Something was always playing on the Victrola console that stood proudly in the living room. As a car salesman, my Dad’s dinner hours varied from an early dinner at 4:30 pm to a later dinner at 6:30. I loved the early dinner, because that’s when ‘I caught Mom & Dad’. Caught them doing what you ask? Dancing. I’d come home from school and opened the front door to Tony Bennett, Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the Andrew Sisters, and many others. No matter who was singing, Mom and Dad would be dancing in the living room, oblivious to the world. Dad would spin Mom this way, then that way and always finish with a twirl, a hug, and a kiss. They were the original ‘hoofers’.

 Watching the joy song and dance brought, I begged and begged to take piano lessons. There were two reasons that should have made Mom and Dad stand their ground and say no. First, I’m tone-deaf, and second, we didn’t have a piano. Being Daddy’s little girl and so adorable, if I say so myself, Dad convinced Mom to sign me up for lessons at my school. Lessons were held 2 days a week in the convent at St. Edmonds. Since we didn’t have a piano, I was given a paper keyboard to practice on. It’s not the same. The last straw for Sister Mary-No-Patience was when I got off the left side of the piano bench and walked over to the right side to hit a key. You see, the other student, with whom I shared the bench, was rather large and I couldn’t reach the key from where I was seated so I improvised. I was impressed, she wasn’t.  She called my Mom and told her I didn’t have a musical bone in my body, and she was wasting her money. The lessons were 25 cents a week! That was it.  If Sister Mary-No-Patience said I had no musical talent then I guess I didn’t, because nuns don’t lie.

Time both marches on. It eases pain, lessens sadness, helps anger, fear, and bad memories fade and gives us hope. I can vouch for this because years later my hope to play the piano again raised its ugly head. Why? Because of my husband Jeff’s family. They’re all musical. All three brothers sing, write music and play a variety of instruments. Jeff played five. All this singing and playing got me enthused to try again. Over the next 15 years, we purchased an old upright piano and 3 electronic keyboards all of which were given away. I guess Sister Mary-No-Patience was right about playing an instrument, but she never heard me sing. So off I went to join a local choir. When I was asked to stand in the back and just mouth the words the message was received – I can’t sing.

Not being able to sing however, didn’t stop me from singing. Jeff and I attended a musical production of 50 and 60’s music. I closed my eyes and was back in my childhood home listening to the Victrola. The gentleman next to me must have been having a similar experience as he and I sang along to each and every song. Ugly glances from the row in front of us and kicks from the row behind along with well-placed elbows from Jeff and my fellow singer’s wife only lowered our volume but didn’t stop us. When we returned to our seats after the intermission, my fellow singer and I had been separated with Jeff and the gentleman’s wife sitting between us.

I still love to sing and dance and do so every chance I get following the words of Mark Twain – “Dance as if no one were watching, sing like no one can hear and live life every day as if it were your last.” Good advice.

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