I was fumbling around on youtube this morning and found this Patsy Cline rendition of Tennessee Waltz. My mother introduced me to this song. She was not trying to – this was one of the songs she sang while wringing out the laundry in her wringer wash machine. Hearing Patsy Cline sing this old song brought back stirring emotional memories of fifty years past. My mother may have sang with less attention to pitch, tone, or timing – but no one could match her heart felt emotion.
My mother was a simple woman in the 1950’s. This was not by design – it was by necessity. With no modern kitchen or laundry appliances Mom found little time for pondering the imponderables of fate and destiny. At that time we lived in a four room house and by 1961 there were seven children. (We moved to an eight room house in 1964.) The point is that my mother had little time for any in depth consideration of the humanitarian arts.
Another of my mother’s favorites was Doris Day. The following video captures the essence of my mother standing at the sink, washing dishes, singing to pass the time:
Mom enjoyed Doris Day – but she was more inclined to old fashioned country singing. I remember her singing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ while turning the fried chicken in an old cast iron skillet. My mother also introduced me to the ‘do do’ song. She might sing “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. do do dee do do.” This became a staple of my own attempts at singing. My thought is that my mother would have enjoyed the following particular rendition of ‘You Are My Sunshine:’
My mother did not have time to research the historical context of Biblical writings. She understood little about the need need for her participation in parent teacher conferences. She was raised during the depression – hard times seem to cement values of skepticism about the worth of education or future career opportunities. When she was but eighteen years old Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and her boyfriend (my father) left for war. His return fulfilled the romantic ideal – forging values of good triumphing over evil. She did not need more philosophy than that. Her task in life was to manage a meager budget in the best interest of her husband and children. Music was her release valve. If asked, she would probably just say she sang because she liked the songs. It is my fate to add psychological interpretation.
Mom sang with that innocence of a child. I see this in my grandchildren. One of them loves music – he can’t carry a tune – but he loved to sing. I say ‘loved’ in the past tense because he is now eleven years old and someone told him he could not sing well – so he no longer sings happily along with the radio. My mother never suffered that affliction. For that I am grateful.
The not-so-subtle racial overtones of Brier Rabbit were lost on my mother. She would sing ‘Zip A Dee Do Daa’ with the zest of any old Huckleberry floating down the river on a home made raft, accompanied by a black slave. Mom would sometimes break into a modified version of the ‘Charleston’ dance while singing a song like “Song Of The South.”
My mother is 87 years old. I went to her house last week to sand and refinish a patio glider. No one was home. I went around back and began work. About an hour later Mom showed up with her 72 year old niece.
“Where have you been, you old gadabout?” I asked. (Gadabout is a term Mom used to use to describe loose people who went in bars.)
She heaved up a hearty laugh and said, “We went to the Women’s Group at church. Then we went out to eat. Then we went to the old folks home to visit those old people.”
I long for that innocent optimism in my own life.