Monday, June 14, 2010

The Saga of Singing

I am quite certain she had no idea what she was doing to me. She worked very hard in every sense of the word to make sure my life was easier than hers had been, and I know she wanted what was best for me. Her life had always been hard, and got more so at a time when she had every reason to expect it would get easier.

I honestly don't remember the problems with my singing until after we moved to Canada, and settled in the Hundred Acre Wood on Vancouver Island. That first Christmas was the hardest. We towed the trailer up the hill and parked it outside the house shortly before Thanksgiving, which is in October in Canada. The house was a disgusting mess, and Mom was determined that we would be living in it by Christmas. During those frantic months of scraping, scrubbing, mending and painting, her customary singing took on an edge, and that's when she started to be so critical of mine. I was eight.

My singing took two forms: singing along with her (I knew a lot of her songs by then), and singing things I had learned in school or on the radio station favoured by my teenage friend.

Of course, the more she criticized, the worse I got, as my nerve crumpled under the onslaught of her disapproval. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Veronica! Either be quiet or get on the tune!" "Tune" and "key" were interchangeable terms. Whichever she said, it was a pretty good indication that I should shut up, for fear of further irritating her. Because, if I was singing flat, I didn't know how to get it right. She wouldn't (or couldn't) teach me.

At that time, I still found it easy to sing in the school choir, but, by the following Autumn, when parts were being assigned for the Christmas show and Sister Superior told me I was to sing a duet with Tony Ordano, I panicked. I had a difficult time convincing Sister that I couldn't sing. In retrospect, I think she must have discussed the assignments with the Choir sister who had no problem with my singing. However, my mother's word was Gospel to me, and, if she said I couldn't sing, that was enough.

About a year later, I was asked by the Children's Choir Director at St Peter's church to stand in the back and just move my mouth. I said nothing of that to Mom and Dad, but I told them about it when I had to turn in my cassock and surplice for a child who could sing.

After that, I pretty much quit singing, except for a short stint with a folk singing group in high school...thanks to Linda Byers and her sisters. I did actually sing on stage with them...twice, I think. Once at school and once in the Hospital Talent Show. Mom was in England at the time of that show, and Dad refused to go...he wasn't going to waste $4 and sit through all the other acts just to see my group on stage for three minutes.

The upshot of all this negativity was that I became completely convinced that I couldn't sing. If I did try, tension made it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For fifty years!

Now, I have broken out of that pattern.

I feel so good about this that I think I will be able to forgive my mother for controlling me, even from beyond the grave! I just hope and pray that I never attempted to convince my kids that they couldn't do something.

That's a really, really Bad Thing To Do.


  1. Ronni, I was reading this kinda fast and thought you said you were told you had to sing a duet with Tony ORLANDO. LOL

  2. I knew that would come up! Tony Orlando was not even a gleam in his father's eye at that time!

  3. Ronni, I'm so glad for you! And I'm so sorry your mom was so unthinkingly cruel. I suppose it's true that many people have had the same trip laid on them about singing. I hear it all the time in my work: "Oh, I can't sing, I was told not to sing, I can't carry a tune in a bucket, they always told me to shut up."

  4. I am still a far cry from being able to sing alone a capella in front of people, as I would have to do for an audition, but I am so chuffed that I actually did this, and the cast and accompanist were so encouraging. One night, I thought I was flat, and David said, "No you weren't. It was right there..."

    Baby steps. I raised up a joyful noise, and it was really a song!

    My kids all claim that they can't sing, but I know I never did to them what Mom did to me. I've heard two of them sing very well. the other one is more elusive..

  5. YAY for breaking free!! It's amazing what poor teacher's and less encouraging people can do to ruin one's confidence. At least you made a LEAP forward by abandoning the curse that someone else's words and opinions placed on your heart. Believe it or not, I've had to recently break free of that as well.

  6. Rod, it's hard to imagine your spirit succumbing to an onslaught of criticism! You are all kinds of wonderful and talented!