Doodle #3. What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

 

Doodle #3.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Doodle it in the simple way a child would.

Doodle #3. Me, aka Roberta Peters, singing "The Laughing Song" from Johann Strauss' The Fledermaus
Doodle #3. Me, aka Roberta Peters, singing “The Laughing Song” from Johann Strauss’ The Fledermaus

When I was four, I wanted to be Davy Crockett.

I had the official outfit, complete with coonskin cap, and a charred mop handle named Old Betsy, and I spent a lot of time in the back yard hiding behind the butane tank and shooting bears and Indians. I would have made a good Davy Crockett. I knew the song by heart and was happy to belt it out for anyone who asked.

But somewhere along the line I lost focus–maybe when the TV show was canceled–and by the time I was eight, I had my heart set on growing up and wearing very high heels and smoking Winston cigarettes and leaving a red lipstick stain on the filter, like my cute little red-headed aunt Betty did. She gave me a pair of decommissioned very high heels for play clothes. I tied an old sheet around my waist and clomped up and down our concrete driveway, holding a candy Winston in the approved fashion and looking teddibly sophisticated. It’s a wonder I didn’t fall and break my neck.

Betty and me a long time ago. Betty is wearing very high heels.
Betty and me a long time ago. Betty is wearing very high heels.

Actually, I wanted to grow up and be Betty. But I didn’t have red hair. You couldn’t be Betty without having red hair.

Well, anyway. By the time I was ten and had outgrown Betty’s size 4½B shoes–she was my cute little red-headed aunt–I knew that wearing spike heels and smoking wouldn’t be quite enough for a career. I also knew that if I even thought about taking a puff of a real cigarette I would be grounded until I was older than Betty. So I settled on my third and final choice:

I would grow up and be Roberta Peters.

I would wear low-cut gowns with fitted waists and big, swishy skirts and sing at the Metropolitan Opera.

Publicity photo of soprano Roberta Peters.
Publicity photo of soprano Roberta Peters. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) By Sol Hurok, concert promoter. (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
My specialty would be Adele’s “Laughing Song” from Johann Strauss’ The Fledermaus. In English, of course, so the audience would know how funny the lyrics are.

I would include lyrics here, but the only ones I’ve located online aren’t nearly so amusing as those Ms. Peters sang, and I refuse to settle. If I ever find my opera book, I’ll come back and fill in the blank. The book is around somewhere, in a box or maybe just under something. Many of my possessions are currently under something.

The doodle depicting my career choice shouldn’t require commentary, but I’ll comment anyway, just in case. As you might have inferred, the ha ha ha‘s are taken from “The Laughing Song.” The notes rising from my/Ms. Peters’ right hand to the top of her head symbolize the range the singer covers at the end of the song. I think it goes from D above middle C to a high D-flat. When I find my opera book, I’ll check that. Some singers work their way up. The genuine articles make the jump from low to high with nothing between. No safety net.

Here’s Roberta Peters singing “The Laughing Song” in German. The language doesn’t really matter, nor do the lyrics. The voice is everything.

Although this blog is dedicated to telling the truth, mainly, I’m going break with tradition and tell the truth whole, plain, and unvarnished:

I still want to be Roberta Peters when I grow up.

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Doodling prompt from 365 Days of Doodling by Carin Channing

You’re Sixty

Today would have been my mother’s ninety-eighth birthday. On last May 1, my father would have been one hundred.

When I take the time to really think about that, it’s mind-boggling. I can’t imagine them at those ages.

Mother used to tell a story about my great-aunt Lydia’s sixtieth birthday. Lydia, her mother, her two younger sisters, and two of her nieces–my mother and her youngest sister, who was generally referred to as “that cute little Betty,”*–went to dinner to celebrate.

Back home, my great-grandmother put on her nightgown and got into the big four-poster bed in Lydia’s downstairs bedroom. The other women sat around her and did what they always did when they got together–talked and laughed. No topic was off limits and everything was funny. A quiet child could learn a lot in those sessions.

That night, my great-grandmother, whom the younger ones called Grannygirl, sat propped against her pillows, old but still the quintessential sharp-witted (and sharp-tongued) Southern belle. While the others talked, she said nothing.

Finally, looking into the distance, such as it was, she uttered a single sentence: “Lydia, you’re sixty.” Her tone was contemplative, but it also carried an undertone of surprise.

In the silence that followed, Lydia said yes, she was.

A few minutes later, still gazing somewhere above her descendants’ heads, Grannygirl broke in again. “Lydia, you’re sixty.

Again, Lydia agreed she was.

Another few minutes passed and Grannygirl said it once more: “Lydia, you’re sixty.

Obviously having heard enough on that topic, Lydia responded, a bit sharply, “Well, Mother what does that make you?”

End of conversation.

I thought of that story because, like Grannygirl trying to get used to having a sixty-year-old daughter, I can’t quite get used to the idea of my parents at the century mark. At the same time, I believe, were they alive today, they would not have changed. I know, however, that to them, I would be radically different.

I wish they could have attended my wedding. I wish they could know my husband. I wish they could read this blog and my fiction. I wish they could read the pieces I’ve published. I wish they could know that, though I miss them terribly,  I’m secure and happy.

One thing I’m certain of: If my parents had been here to celebrate my birthday a few years ago, we would  have gone out to dinner, and then we would have come home and changed into more comfortable clothes. And then, while we sat in the living room talking about anything and everything, my mother would at some point have looked into the distance and said, “Kathy, you’re sixty.”

Crystal Barrow Waller and Billie Waller, 1942
Crystal Barrow Waller and Billie Waller, 1942

*

*Betty was short, had red hair and a sweet Irish face, and was drop-dead funny. She was everybody’s favorite, her nieces and nephews adored her, and she left us much too soon.

betty-and-kathy-19521
Betty and Kathy, 1952