When I took my daughter to her first singing lesson it all came rushing back. As she moved through her warm up scales, I leafed through the sheet music she had selected. For her, the songs of Wicked were a no brainer; she had just learned them at her theater camp this past summer and she already knew the words. Singing show tunes after scales was not something I had to Try (hard) to Remember. While watching her I remembered me- the pre-MS me- and “this ability” that didn’t change after my diagnosis. It was here all along.
When I was a girl the music of Broadway was always vibrating through those cheesy fabric speakers on the console that sat on our green shag rug and took up no less than 6 feet of horizontal space. My parents loved this music and they played the albums until the grooves wore out. (For those of you under 30, that is a reference to the vinyl discs from olden times.) This comes as no surprise being that my mom’s dad (GP Aaron) was smitten with the musical and my mom grew listening to the score that I knew so well.
Pippin, A Chorus Line and The Fantasticks were the soundtrack of my childhood. My sister and I knew all the words to all the songs and danced around the living room singing them at the top of our lungs. Though we only went to a handful of Broadway shows (A Chorus Line, Annie, La Cage aux Folles and of course Cats) that music was the fiber of my original family. And to this day my sister and I will break into song when a word prompts us, much to our husbands’ chagrin. 😉
In addition to a love of music those shows taught me some very valuable lessons. The first and perhaps most timely, was from A Chorus Line. “Hello 12, Hello 13, Hello Love” was a great conversation starter about the facts every pre-teen wants to know but is afraid to ask. La Cage introduced me to transvestism, an understanding made more complete a few years later when I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Also a musical!) I recited the poetry of TS Eliot to a tune and learned about the travesty of war diluted by dance and song. And I’ll always remember the tiny play in a tiny theater on Sullivan Street where I found an instruction manual for sneaking around your parents to be with that first love. (Now that one really spoke to me!)
In spite of my compromised self image I continued to enjoy singing in the years that followed. When I entered high school, I immediately joined the choir and a year later auditioned successfully for both the acappella and treble groups. Of course by this age I could no longer find the reckless abandon that my living room afforded me. I was firmly positioned at level-8 on the insecurity scale of 1 to 10 [10 being most insecure :)]. And even acceptance into these advanced choirs didn’t help me feel more self-assured. So I took singing lessons hoping to find confidence. Clearly the issue would more likely have been resolved on a the couch and not next to a piano. Wow, I hadn’t considered that self-esteem indicator until I wrote these words. (note to self: call therapist!)
It wasn’t until I moved out of my house that I realized that not everyone grew up with a love of Broadway musicals. It’s funny how that works. We take for granted what we were raised with, assuming it’s standard fare. It was never more evident than when I was hanging out with college friends and after someone said “One” I launched into a very loud “….singular sensation, every little step…” (crickets) Not the harmonic response I had expected. Just a silence filled with the wide-eyed looks and lifted eyebrows punctuated by an “alrighty then.” But all the while I could hear Grandpa Aaron singing in my ear; a voice of approval for this mutual love that he passed down to his daughter and she to hers.
In the 22 years that followed I never thought of singing again. Not once. Maybe it was because I was distracted by my MS can’t-do-list which was growing and after all, singing never held a strong position on my can-do- list.
But recently, I’ve learned that I can do more “performance” than I could even have imagined. I now host an MS radio show, write a blog and am the outspoken founder of the non-profit, MS SoftServe. Once its live it will be the first individualized learning website that grew out of the Master’s degree I never thought I was smart enough to get. Ironically, with MS I have found an expertise that has ultimately given me a confidence I never knew possible. And it only took me 23 years to get to here. 😉
Madeline and I are sharing our lessons. Every week we sit in the spotlight of a tiny room with carpet on the walls; singing a song that doesn’t require a stabilizing arm, a walking stick or the ability to be balanced. And my limitations are left outside the soundproof door.
Finding my voice as 42 year-old woman, living within the restrictions of MS for over two decades, is empowering. I’m no longer afraid to get up in front of that audience and I have finally found, that something special that Madeline and I can share; one that doesn’t ask more of me than I can handle. And wouldn’t you know it- it was there all along. After all of these years I can now see that I am the “one” I’ve always sang about in a song that transcends time.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Carnival of MS Blogs, Amy Gurowitz. Amy Gurowitz said: Try to Remember~: http://wp.me/p3XOZ-fd […]
Amy, what a wonderful gift to share with Madeline! i’m really happy for you! it’s great to read these “oh yeah!, i forgot about that special talent i have” moments! i know how distracting it can be to focus on the things we “miss” or “could’ve done differently”, especially since it keeps us from discovering / or rediscovering the things we do great! Cheers on this recent rediscovery, and thank you for sharing!
Thanks Lynna, I imagine that it is a similar feeling for you; cooking the food of your heritage and serving it up to the masses who love eating it, myself included! (I’d like to order some frijoles negros con arroz blanca, y una cortadita por favor! Oh, and one of your fabulous guava y queso empanadas will be a perfect ending!) xo
A homerun, Amy. How about you singing on your radio show? best regards
Thanks Phil. I’ll have to pass on blogradio singing! Just the thought of it makes me squirm!
LOVE THIS STORY AMY!!!!!
thanks for sharing — kisses to you and Madeline
Fabulous, Amy! xoxo!
Thanks for reading Laura~
That’s great, Amy, and it’s very inspiring! I’m so happy to hear it. I’m realizing now that I didn’t grow up exposed to this kind of music, and as a result, it’s quite a struggle for Kaya and I to come up with Broadway tunes for her to sing at her voice lessons. At a recent voice lesson, Kaya wasn’t feeling well (stomach ache), and her teacher explained that singing can sometimes make you feel better. It worked and I can see why.
Thanks for reading and sharing Lisa. It does put things in perspective… Why doesn’t Kaya come over and watch some movie musicals and then listen to the soundtracks. You should come too! There will be kettle corn and sparkly beverages~ 😉
Ok, so next time I see you I expect you to launch into song. Perhaps a duet with M? And I will be so envious….xo
Then our next date will have to be 6 months from now… after some serious practice! Of course we are on the bi-annual schedule for play dates anyway… aren’t we! 😉
Amy, you inspire me – every day. Thank you.
We’ve got that mutual inspiration thing going for us! 😉
Even when it takes me days to get to catch up and read something you’ve written (or recorded as audio) I am always moved and feel so much better for it. You are a very inspiring and gifted being and you hold a very special place in my heart. Thanks for being the precious soul you are. I am very deeply grateful for who you are in my world… this world we all live in. Much love to you and the rest of the family you live and love with.
Amy what a great story! I too have MS and I like to think of what MS has given me instead of taken away from me. I have tried new things since diagnosis.
Your story is inspirational, I just wish I could sing because I too heard all those songs growing up…it must have been that time in the century…because I am 49.
I agree with Phil you should sing on your blogradio!!
Keep it up, great reading!