Singing has been as much a part of my life as breathing, growing, aging. It has given me joy and gratitude for the fullness of my life, and it has helped me through some difficult times.
During World War II, I went to Burbank, California, to work as a riveter at the Lockheed aircraft factory. It was Christmastime, 1942, and I was a terribly homesick 19-year-old. My cousin and her friends asked me to go caroling with them and I sang I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas on Bing Crosby’s front porch. He wasn’t home but it cheered me up.
In 1949, brokenhearted, I left my husband of six months when I learned he was having an affair. On the train from Minneapolis to New York, I sang quietly to myself I took a trip on a train and I thought about you. I believe that if you can sing even a little, you’ll make it through.
When my son was born with Down’s Syndrome, I sang Mighty Like a Rose to him every night until he was nine years old. Now he’s 45 and when he comes to see me, we sing Sweetest little fellow, everybody knows, don’t know what to call him but he’s mighty like a rose. I believe music can make connections where language fails.
In 1991, in the recovery room after by-pass surgery, I had a Walkman with a tape of the Bach B Minor Mass and I pushed the button to play this divine music whenever I woke. I believe music helped to heal my soul and my body.
Some of my earliest memories were of listening to my father, a vaudeville song and dance man, singing Oh, How She Could Dance to me as I swayed back and forth. My mother and I played duets together, banging out The Triumphal March from Aida. Years later, in the Navy, I sang and danced to Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats and Little Lambs Eat Ivy at a big show in boot camp. I sang torch songs in bars when I was single and Over the Rainbow to my daughter as she went off to sleep. When my mother was dying, I sang Rose of Washington Square, and she smiled.
Now, at 83, I am “The Golden Miss M.” That’s what I call the one-woman show that I perform in retirement and nursing homes. I sing songs from the Gilded Age, Vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, and World War II. I believe this little offering of mine brings as much joy and pleasure to my peers as it does to me.
And when the opportunity arises, I believe I’ll audition for the celestial choir.
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