In the days before a television was in every room in the house we listened to a lot more music. Radios and record players were in heavy use in those days. In my family we always had a radio in the kitchen. My mom, Doty, loved to listen as she cooked and later did the dishes. Unlike the moms of our friends, who liked Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, my mom listened to soul music. Most especially she loved to get down to some James Brown while scrubbing all those pots and pans. She tuned in to a local AM program hosted by a DJ known as “The Little Man.”
I scorned her music taste, preferring British invasion rock. So each evening one could experience the Beatles and Rolling Stones coming from my bedroom record player while James cried “Please, Please, Please” in the kitchen. Added to this was Walter Cronkite on the television my Dad watched. Thankfully the maximum volume on electronics was pretty modest back then.
Surely being embarrassed by one’s family is a universal experience. My own children would probably rush to confirm this fact. I was not often embarrassed by my parents but there were a few notable face scorchers.
In my early teens some new next door neighbors moved in. A young couple we knew instantly to be intellectual (college degrees, he a lawyer!!) sophisticated (they had a piano for God’s sake!!) worldly (they had been to England!!) and society folks (she invited Doty over for coffee!!) From this young woman I first heard of the wonders of cashmere sweaters. My sweaters had come from Sears or J C Penney and were most assuredly not cashmere. I learned that they did not watch TV every night, sometimes electing to read. Hard to imagine but they would willingly miss the Beverly Hillbillies for a book! Wonders never ceased. This was my first glimpse at what seemed to be a sophisticated, modern marriage.
Anyway this esteemed young woman was the reason for one of my most embarrassing moments. I probably used up a decade’s worth of blushes on this one episode.
She came over to visit one afternoon and I proudly joined the two women, no doubt to contribute to the conversation but also to listen for new hints as to how the other half lived. The topic turned to music probably a result of my input regarding British bands of the day. Doty proudly chimed in, “Nancy loves music. I guess she inherited that from me. I have always been musical. Why, I play the radio every night while I do the dishes.”
I felt the breath leave my body and I believe that my heart stopped beating. I felt a blush rising from deep inside like molten lava making its way up from deep in a volcano. I looked at the neighbor in horror hoping that perhaps she had not heard. No luck. I still recall the expression on her face. She was torn, wondering if Doty was making some kind of joke or if she was serious. She did not respond, just nodded her head up and down. The confusion on her face said it all. My embarrassment lasted for years.
Today it is not unusual for someone in my family to comment on their musical talent and to note that we spring from a musically inclined lineage. It no longer makes me cringe or blush. Rather, it makes me feel glad that Doty is recalled by so many and so often and so fondly. And as the Godfather of Soul might say, “I feel good!”