Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Veni, Vidi, Vici?

In 1974, Barry Manilow hit the charts with a song called, "Mandy." I was three years old at the time, and my father, a jazz pianist, still traveled a lot. However, when he was home or when we went to see him play, he would pat his piano bench and ask me to, "have a seat and help him out with the words." So I would. Though I never knew a single lyric, I would get on stage, curl up beside him, and - much to his genuine amusement - bellow out whatever was in my head.

He always joked that - on those nights, if the club had caught fire, he'd have screamed, "Children and rhythm-section first!" My mother was not amused.

At any rate, one time, when I was in Kindergarten at a Catholic school (and already studying Latin), my dad was performing, and my sister asked him to play Mandy... so he did. When he asked me to give him a hand, I climbed on stage, nestled up next to him, and crooned into the microphone, "OH MANDY. CAUSE YOU CAME, AND YOU SAW, AND YOU CONQUERED... Oh Mannnndy." Now, if you know the song, then you know that the actual lyrics go something like this, "Oh Mandy. You came and you gave without taking. Oh Mandy." Til he died, it was one of his favorite stories about me.

He would have turned 76 this month and I still miss him.

Have you ever had someone who just got you? Someone who understood you and accepted you through all of your faults and idiosyncrasies? That was my dad... and I was not an easy child. All jokes aside, I could have been the poster child for Ritalin. In fact, at Easter, when everyone else had baskets full of candy, I was allowed to have one chocolate bunny - which I would devour in three bites, before running laps around the house, until I eventually collapsed into a sugar coma, where I would drool and twitch in my sleep like a rabid gerbil. My siblings were literally forbidden from giving any of their candy to me. I may very well have been the only child to grow up hearing their mother say, "It's OK, honey. You don't have to share with your sister. Everyone understands that kids can be a little selfish, whiny, and needy sometimes. You're just like tiny men." But I digress.

The point is that when people would say, "She's so awkward/high-strung/high-maintenance/high-anxiety," my dad would tell me that I wasn't any of those things. I was just... Coltish... somewhere between a pony who was still getting her bearings and a racehorse who wanted to run until she hit her stride. And he told me to sing.. especially when I didn't know the lyrics... because I would always find the words.

I suppose Jazz pianists are pretty smart guys. After all, wasn't it Thelonious Monk who said, "Play it your own way. Don’t play what the public wants. Play what you want and let the public pick up on what you're doing — even if it takes them fifteen, twenty years." Well, it's taken me forty, but I'm finally doing my own thing. Carpe diem and all that, I guess.

Talk to you later.