I was an only child for a long time. That meant that I spent most of my time in the company of adults. It also meant that I got a lot of attention. As a result, I thought I was good at everything. Among all of the talents I believed I had, singing was up at the top of the list. I came from a musical family where someone was always either singing, whistling or playing some sort of music on the stereo. Dad could play the harmonica, the guitar and the accordion. Mom played the baritone. Both sang in choirs. Music was just something we did.
When it was my turn to share something for show and tell in 1st grade, it was only natural that I chose to sing. I still remember standing up in front of the class belting out, “In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.’ ” I don’t know what Miss Duell, my teacher thought about that, but I was sure I was destined for greatness.
My best friend that year was my neighbor, Marv. He and I spent all of our free time together. When we weren’t fighting, we were singing. There was a split rail fence between our houses. We’d sit on it during the summer and have singing contests. Then we would argue about who had won and start fighting. It was a real love-hate relationship. Often we would rope our mothers into judging our singing. Those unlucky women would have to sit through our serenades and then come up with nice ways to say that neither of us was better than the other.
That all came to an end, though, when Marv got a tape recorder. He arranged for us to speak into a tape and sing into the tape and then listen to the tape. I had never heard my voice before. In fact, it had never occurred to me that the voice I heard wasn’t the same as the one that everyone else heard. I mean, how weird is that??? So we talked, I think we had to introduce ourselves and say why we were the better singer. Then we sang. I cannot remember what. Then we listened.
I don’t know what Marv thought. Perhaps he had been recording and listening to himself for years. Perhaps he was prepared for the stranger’s voice that was his own. I was not. All of my dreams of taking the stage were dashed. I sounded so completely different that I stopped singing in public, basically for good.
It’s not that I had a terrible voice. That wasn’t the problem at all. I just couldn’t handle the fact that I couldn’t hear what everyone else did. All of my self assurance dissolved. Although I still love to sing at home or in choir at church, the Diva retired on that fateful day when I was six.