When I was six years old, my mom and dad had a Christmas Party.
At least I believe it was a Christmas party. I know I had to dress up. I remember feeling very small in a large group of grown-ups. They were all dressed up, too, which somehow made them seem even bigger. I often hummed as a child... whenever I was concentrating on something, when I had to be brave, when I was happy... That night I ran back and forth helping Mama serve hors d’oeuvres to her friends-- oh, she was a wonderful cook, she always made everything so pretty! It seems like a magical night now, looking back... with candles burning everywhere, the smell of cinnamon potpourri-- and I was humming as I ran!
I've always loved music, and I especially loved to sing it. Mom and Dad had all kinds of sheet music, lots of old records- Patti Page, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Sinatra... you name it, they had it. Christmas music, cowboy songbooks, hymnals, Broadway tunes, movie scores with great jazz, opera and classic love songs-- and, of course, Elvis! It would be years later, when I was a big girl of 12, that I'd be inundated with my brother's favorite music (Deep Purple) and modern Rock and Roll. But my mom was an Elvis fan, and I heard his songs in the cradle! Mama herself loved to sing, so she sang to us all the time and played the piano. Holidays would always find us standing around the piano, harmonizing and singing and laughing together. Dad played the piano and sometimes he'd sing, too... "September" was one of his favorites, tunes from Rhinestone Cowboy, Lawrence of Arabia, "Laura's Song" from Dr. Zhivago... he was a quiet romantic, still is. And so naturally, even before I could really talk, I was humming and singing.
Back to the party. It was an integral moment that seemed to define what I wanted to do for the rest of my life… and I think I knew it right then and there. I hummed right up to Chick and Nancy Shelton with my tray of hors d'oeuvres. Great friends of my parents with whom I felt safe and loved. They asked me to sing a song for them. Of course, I was taken aback and embarrassed and shy about it. In front of all these people? Mom and Dad laughed and said “it's okay, just sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and I thought, “oh, I can do that one!” So I sang, twisting my little quilted party skirt in my hands, swaying back and forth trying not to be nervous.
There-- finally! I finished the song…whew. Then suddenly I was startled by resounding applause coming from all over the room... I’d never heard that before. I'd never felt that before! Immediately Chick and Nancy called me over to them and gave me a dollar. WOW, a dollar for singing a song? Oh yeah, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Of course, it wasn’t just the dollar. I loved the happiness I felt in the room that night... that dollar represented the best energy in the whole wide world!
It's still the best energy in the world-- the happiness, the joyful connection, the beauty of people interacting and feeling fully alive in the moment. And I still get nervous... My father always told me "that’s because you care deeply and you want to do the absolute best job that you can."
And he's right, I do.