I am often asked, “When did you start singing?” The answer depends on what you might believe to be most accurate. My mother tells me that when she was pregnant with me she prayed the baby would sing. After my birth, my mother sang arias from her favorite opera’s for my lullaby’s and my father sang country tunes to me after he returned home from serving in the US Navy during WWII.
If you want to know when I REALISED I was a singer, I will tell you that it was the Christmas of 1950 when I turned 4 years old.
I received a table with two chairs from Santa. My mother expected she and I would have charming tea parties together but one day upon entering my bedroom expecting to play tea party with me, instead I was standing on top of the table dancing and singing at the top of my lungs!
I don’t know what song I was singing…most likely ‘Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats and Little Lambs Eat Ivy’ by Burl Ives, but it could have easily been ‘Your Cheating Heart’ by Patti Page or the hymn ‘I Come to the Garden Alone’! All I remember is my mother being aghast that I was standing on the table dancing because in our home standing on a piece of furniture was considered TOTALLY unacceptable behavior! However, it was at that moment I KNEW myself to be a singer! From that day forward, every decision I made as a child, teenager or young adult was designed to propel me toward realizing ‘my dream’.
Later that year my parents took me to a local High School theatre performance. We sat in the very back row of the school auditorium so I could stand up without blocking the view of any one. I do not recall the name of the musical being performed but I still remember the THRILL I felt throughout the performance. It is a feeling I always experience whenever I hear or sing a good tune. That feeling lights my entire soul, radiates through my entire body and creates an unquenchable fire in my spirit. HEARTFIRE is the tune I wrote about that unquenchable fire.
My parents had an RCA TV and it came with a little record player capable of playing 45 RPM recordings. I had two records. THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD and YOU’RE CHEATING HEART. As a ‘treat’ my mother would set up the record player every day so I could listen to the story and then sing along with Patti Page. I LOVED it! I begged my mother to play the record over and over and over again.
When I grew old enough, all I wanted was my own record player and records, mostly of operatic and musical theatre recordings. Every day for hours I would sing in my bedroom along with the records trying to match the intonation of the singers, take a breath where they took a breath, hold the notes, say the words with all the consonants clearly pronounced.
My poor brother had to endure my noisy ‘obsession’. Even today he rolls his eyes whenever I refer ‘fondly’ to those early days of singing practice. And, if you ever should come across any former neighbors, they would probably also roll eyes and shutter with remembering how the air in the neighborhood was filled with sound of Ms. Lunsford singing at the top of her lungs trying to fill all the space in the world with her voice!
Singing with those records transported me to another world, so much so that I would feel absolutely enraged when I was disturbed. If someone knocked on the bedroom door or worse, opened the door calling my name it was actually painful to be jolted out of whatever place I had been in my mind. It felt as if I had been pulled through a knothole backwards. I assure you, THAT is not a good feeling!
In fact, growing up I didn’t have any friends to speak of because I spent so much time playing and singing with the records, I considered music to be my ONLY friend. You see, there is a song for every emotion a human can feel and I would work out all my emotions by choosing songs to express, purge, and comfort me. Great therapy!
Those were the defining moments of my childhood when I knew who I was and my deepest desire; a desire that defined nearly every decision I have made in my life. What were your defining moments?