“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” Ludwig van Beethoven
I neither looked like her nor had her interests, hobbies or talents. So many of her abilities, I envied.
Take dancing, for instance.
My mother was a requested dance partner all her life.
Even after four operations on her foot hampered her style, she still danced.
Even if it was simply skip dancing down the street, a grandchild’s hand in tow, singing some silly upbeat song:
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey
Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy”
But, it was the swing style of jazz using large bands, fixed musical arrangements and solo-driven improvisation that always moved her feet.
So, when the musical SWING headlined at the Stanley theatre, I surprised her with tickets for us to attend. While I imagined we’d spend an afternoon listening to songs she’d sung to me throughout my childhood instead the show unveiled the reasons those songs still persisted as her favourites.
As this event was a rare event without my children, I wore an outlandishly brilliant yellow satin dress to celebrate the occasion.
There is no plot or dialogue in the musical SWING. The audience experiences the swing era entirely through its music and dance.
As the brass trumpets and trombones broadcasted the first notes of Opus One, her bouncing feet began to swing.
While there was no dialogue on stage, secreted away in the darkness, I was treated to an intimate dialogue from my mother.
After each and every song, she whispered in my ear a story. With each successive song, she revealed secrets of her youth: unrequited loves, ‘bad boy’ flirtations, and endless dancing escapades. Her twinkling eyes expressed her unrestrained pleasure that I experience these memories, live her stories.
As each song immersed us further into my mother’s memories, I understood these songs meant more to her than the music, more than the lyrics.
These songs resonated throughout her life because life ‘don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’ was her life mantra.
She determinedly maintained a swinging zeal for living that led her steps through all life’s challenges.
Leaving the theatre, she with her hobbled foot and me with my two left feet, we danced and sang overcome with overflowing emotions.
Smiling, she suddenly stopped, grabbed my arm, and glancing at my swirling yellow dress said, “Oh please wear this dress to my funeral.”
Startled by her heart-wrenching words, I hastened her to a nearby café.
Her reason for this unsettling request?
To ensure that the saddest day of my life would be eclipsed celebrating our day of sharing her songs and our love of all things yellow.
Ten years ago, I honoured her request and wore that outrageously brilliant yellow satin dress to her funeral.
On that day, I found myself humming an Andrews Sisters’ songs that exemplified her life:
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative and
latch onto the affirmative,
don’t mess with Mister in between,
you’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum,
bring gloom down to the minimum
have faith or
pandemonium’s liable to walk upon the scene.
There was no switched hospital bassinets, for I am my mother’s daughter.
I inherited her courage in adversity and her zest for living. Her life mantra will always swing in my life, as I live my life in crescendo.