Friday, June 4, 2010

America's Got Talent but just not in Oklahoma!

As a kid I was always trying to find my special gift, you know, what they call talent? My mother was a singer with a beautiful soprano voice. She sang all her life in operas, the church and anywhere she was asked to perform. My father was a gifted, and I mean gifted, storyteller, writer and actor. He performed in college and kept his hand in acting all his life. Like many little girls I wanted to be just like my mother. So, the first attempt at finding my own talent was dancing lessons.

My mother enrolled me in Mr. Michael’s Dancing School when I was five years old. He started all of us out with tap dancing. Now, I didn’t have much trouble with hop, shuffle, step, slap step. I got that move down rather quickly but it was everything that came after that they had me stumped. When the row of girls would tap their way to the left I was always going to the right. I just didn’t have any sense of where I was in time and space. Fortunately for me five year olds are pretty much cute no matter how non-rhythmic they may be.

What I lacked in talent I made up for in enthusiasm. My favorite part about dancing was the costumes. At my first recital we were to suppose to perform, “The Naughty Girl Polka” and I absolutely loved the costume. It was in my favorite color, red. It was a red leotard with a red and white polka dot skirt and a little peter pan collar made of the same material. A big red bow tie finished off the ensemble.

In this number we were supposed to come out on stage and sing a song about a naughty little girl. We all lined up with one hand on our hips and our free hand shaking an accusing finger at our audience. Well, I handled that with no problem. I shook my fanny and wagged my finger and when I was done I just walked off leaving a gaping hole in the chorus line. I completely forgot to do the dance!

I at least redeemed myself with the next dance and managed to one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five, step, brush hop, step brush hop. with the best of them. However, I think it was obvious to both my mother and Mr. Michaels that I was no Ginger Rodgers in the making.

So onward I forged in my quest to find “my talent”. It took about six months of begging and promising to practice every day to convince my mother to enroll me in piano lessons. After what seemed like an eternity of begging I was enrolled with Mrs. Glasscock the piano teacher. By now I was at the ripe old age of seven. I won’t bore anyone by retelling my brush with the keyboard but you are welcome to peruse the tale again here.

I will say that even though I never became an accomplished pianist what I did learn remained a source of pleasure to me all my life. I just wish I had kept my promise to practice every day.

My next stop on the road to fame and fortune was my attempt at singing. By now I was in Junior High and had been in the girl’s chorus for about a year when I broached my mother on the idea of singing lessons. Always willing to assist me in my quest to find “my talent” she agreed and into my life walked Mrs. Mayfield. She was a young pretty blonde who had been 1st runner up in the Miss Oklahoma contest. I met with her every week and while I sang the scale she would push on my diaphragm in an attempt to get something louder than a whisper out of me. Her other efforts were concentrated on trying to remove the nasal quality from my voice as well as all signs of my Oklahoma twang! I did manage to lose most of my accent but I never could tell when I was singing out my nose.

The first time I sang in public I was also wearing my first pair of high heels. I wobbled on two skinny legs out on the stage where I proceeded to sing a little show medley from South Pacific. I remember looking out at the audience and locking eyes with my mother. As she sat there with a frozen smile on her face trying to calm my nerves with a mother’s look. It didn’t work. I couldn’t get any sound to come out of my mouth. And just as I sang about my attempt to Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair, my knees knocked and my ankles folded right out from under me. Down I went along with my dignity and any chance I may have had of becoming the next Debbie Reynolds.

So, though I am still in search of my special gifts I am forever grateful that I had patient, supportive parents who allowed me to explore so many venues in spite of the risk to the family name and reputation. Thanks Mom, thanks Papa, Thanks, For The Memories!


Olga said...

Oh, dear...but you obviously did get some of your dad's story telling ability.

kenju said...

Yes, you did! A great story! My mom didn't sing and my dad didn't tell stories, but they tried hard to give me the lessons to find out if I had special talents. Alas, none of them took. Piano, dancing and voice - all a bust!

marciamayo said...

You never told us your were a faller too! Perhaps only when you sing.
Thanks for another great story.

Arkansas Patti said...

Think you were trying to climb the wrong side of your family tree. You definitely have your father's gift.