“Oh my God you’re killing me.” Shouts Cheryl putting her hands over her ears.
Mom ignores her young children. Her fingers dance across the piano keys continuing to play a favourite song, Puff the Magic Dragon.
I carry on, fiercely belting out the lyrics, “Lived by the sea. And frolicked in the autumn mist, in a land called Honnah Lee.” I wanted to go to Honnah Lee so badly. Apparently, it’s a magical land, abundant with weeds, and smoke, and no siblings.
Cheryl jabs me in the ribs, “Stop singing so loud.”
Shan has her hands over her ears.
The music stops. Mom whips her head around— the exorcist, “Okay, you two— that’s enough.” Her eyes narrow in on me, “Debby, please sing softer. Everyone would like to hear the music.”
Fine. I think to myself, folding my arms across my chest, I can’t believe this bunch of amateurs. It’s quite obvious I’m a singing protégé. Don’t they realize how the music moves me? It’s like Beethoven said, ‘ To play a wrong note is insignificant— to play without passion is inexcusable. ‘ Audibly, I have a great deal of passion.
In our family, we listened to every type of music, Rock n Roll, Classical, Folk, Jazz, Country and Ancient. Mom could play the piano to dazzle the pants off a Navy man. She sang okay too. Dad sang better— it was probably a requirement for a Navy man.
Mom felt exposure to music was essential to the growing mind. Cheryl, my older sister excelled at the piano. She went on to complete higher levels, with the Conservatory of Music courses. I was a reluctant piano student at the age of six. My training didn’t last long. Maybe, Mom saw my amazing singing potential, and decided I was wasting my time stumbling over piano keys. I’m not sure if our younger sister, Shannon, received lessons or not. She might have, because she did dazzle the pants off an Army man.
Music had a large presence in our home. The piano took up one side of the living room, and a magnificent wooden cabinet containing a record player, with two built in speakers, sat along the adjacent wall. It was a massive wooden box. It could have been a two in one combo-unit— it plays music until you croak, and then it’s your casket. If you kept a dremel handy, all your friends, and family could inscribe a special message. Kinda like a yearbook, except it’s a life-book. Anyway, the combo-unit had excellent sound. At least until later in life, when teenage girls blew out the speakers. Then it was just a sarcophagus , but then no one died for a long time, so I think it went to the dump.
On the farm in the winter when the daylight waned, Dad would head to the Combo-unit, “Hey girls, do you want to hear some Rock n Roll?” asks Dad, as he lifts the lid on the elegant record player.
Our eyes glow in anticipation, “Are you going to play Elvis, Dad?”
“Elvis? He questions, putting his hands on his hips, “What about Louis Armstrong?”
“No.” We protest. “We can’t Rock n Roll to him!”
“Ok, Elvis it is.” Agrees Dad, placing the needle on the spinning vinyl.
“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog!” Wails Elvis.
Dad shoves the coffee table to the side, making more dancing room. The music rolls through our bodies. Our parents join hands twirling past us, and then pull apart, hips shaking to the music. We prance all over twisting, and waving our hands in the air. Dad holds Moms hand, spins her around, and then dips her to the ground. We giggle, and stare at them with starry eyes. Dad takes each of us for a turn, throwing us into the basics of the jive.
I remember the joy distinctly— the flushed cheeks, the happy feet, and the laughing until you’re dizzy. The music created the atmosphere, but it was being together, which made it magic. The best memories are always made with someone else.
FYI, my singing career never did get off the piano bench.