Music and Memories

Every so often, when I’m alone in my Tiny House, I will begin humming. It’s a kind of unconscious thing with me. Sometimes it takes a while for me to put words to the tune, but when the words show up, I’m no longer alone. The memories come flooding in.

The other day I heard myself humming a song from my long ago world. It was Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown. Never heard of it?  Not surprising…it was written in 1919…even I wasn’t born yet. But when I recognized the melody, my mind went back to my mother, Alice, who used to sing that song to me from infancy to teenaged impatience. My mother, as you probably gathered from frequent references, had a soft voice and a lovely way of singing me through a whole lot of troubles.

Everything seemed better. It wasn’t great music I suppose, but I loved it then, I love it still and I remember how we danced as she sang.

In my sweet little Alice blue gown,
When I first wandered down into town,
I was so proud inside,
As I felt every eye,
And in every shop window I primped, passing by.

My father wrote a few songs himself, but they were only used in little local shows – in which he also starred.  Not long ago I heard me humming a song I THINK he wrote, but I could be wrong. It was a sad song, and was never heard anywhere except a show I saw him do.

I lost my faith in you

I found you were untrue.

You promised dream castle in Spain dear.

But brought only heart ache and pain dear…

I cried then and I cry now as I recreate the scene. My father wore his beautiful tuxedo and sang to a beautiful girl in a pretty gown (she had to use one of her own gowns, there was no budget for costumes). They danced as he sang and at the very end, he spun her off stage. The curtain closed on Act One with him standing alone, staring at the hand-painted grey sky.

My father entered into another song memory, this one where he saved me from facing the cold fact that, as time approached for my Senior Prom, I DIDN’T HAVE A BOYFRIEND! Oh, I knew a couple of boys, but they were all brothers of my girl friends, so they didn’t count. Realizing that my life practically depended on it, Father found me a man. Not just any neighborhood guy, but a real live Marine! WOW! His name was Lucky and he showed up the night of the prom with the required wrist corsage and wearing formal marines blues.  He was BEAUTIFUL, and every girl there wanted to meet him –  almost as badly as I wanted them to. To father’s dismay, Lucky didn’t go away. We dated for a while and the song that brings him to mind is I’ll Walk Alone.  He had me promise to “walk alone” until he got back from World War 2. The song was to remind me of my promise not to have any other guy take his place.

 I’ll walk alone because, to tell you the truth, I’ll be lonely
I don’t mind being lonely
When my heart tells me you are lonely, too
I’ll walk alone, they’ll ask me why and I’ll tell them I’d rather
There are dreams I must gather
Dreams we fashioned the night you held me tight
I’ll always be near you wherever you are each night
In every prayer
If you call I’ll hear you, no matter how far
Just close your eyes and I’ll be there
Please walk alone and send your love and your kisses to guide me
Till you’re walking beside me, I’ll walk alone
I’ll always…

Yeah.  Sure. It was wartime. I was 17 and there was a city full of lonely soldiers, sailors and marines. And Lucky was far away, apparently safe from combat but not from boredom. We both grew tired of walking alone.

But the song is still lovely.

Songs aren’t relegated to yesterday’s memories. A little over three years ago, I moved into my Tiny House in Woodland Hills. Even with the love and support of my new extended family, leaving all that was familiar for the unknown made me feel a little bit like Lili from the musical Carnival. Lili sings about feeling alone after a life in her hometown, Mira, where “everybody knew her name.”

A room that’s strange is never cozy.
A place that’s strange is never sweet.
I want to have a chair that knows me,
and walk a street that knows my feet.
I’m very far from Mira now,
and there’s no turning back.

I have to find a place.
I’ve got to find a place,
where everything can be the same.
A street that I can know,
and places I can go,
where everybody knows by name.

With 300 square feet, it didn’t take long to learn every inch of my new home. But I now feel part of the fabric of my new neighborhood as well. Yesterday, my Lyft driver remembered me. My hairdresser, manicurist, dry cleaner, Milo’s vet, assorted waitresses and waiters, not to mention the sales people at Macy’s, Target and Ralph’s all know me.

To paraphrase the composer, Bob Merrill:

 Can you imagine that?

Can you Imagine that?

Everybody knows my name.

There’s another song title from Carnival that fits my life these days – it’s simply called Humming.

Alice Blue Gown

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