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Sunday, 12 February 2012

WHITNEY

All my life I’ve wanted to be a singer. Or, more simply, just able to sing. As a gangly ten year old, I was convinced I was destined for stardom as the fifth member of Abba.  I mean, my hair was naturally blonde. Surely that was enough.

My girlfriends and I would choreograph these complicated dance routines, physically miming “digging” as we were “diggin’ the dancing queen”. Shovel, shovel, and throw it over your shoulder. Repeat twice. Seriously.

We were lip-syncing heroines long before Milli even met Vanilli.

Money Money Money was all about pretending to count out wads of cash. We skipped Knowing Me Knowing You, because after all, we were ten years old and didn’t know a thing about heartbreak (which is what I eventually went on to discover the song was all about). We did our best work with “When I Kissed The Teacher”. Oooh, the naughtiness of it all. Kissing a teacher – eeewwwwwwww. That dance was an easy one to put together. Kissy kissy sir?

When school finished, the singing didn’t. It just got augmented with the likes of John Farnham (You’re The Voice), Tina Turner (Simply The Best), David Bowie (especially when he was Under Pressure) and Kylie (should I be so lucky?) And of course the soundtracks to Grease, Fame, Flashdance etc.

Moody Blues, Dire Straits, Van Morrison – I would slot the tapes in, grab a hairbrush or a spray deodorant can, and I was away.

And even though I loved her on sight, I could never even try to emulate Whitney. Not just because she had legs that went up to sky. Not just because she had the most luminous skin and radiant eyes. Not just because she looked good in a lavender dress. I mean, who the hell looks good in lavender?

It was that voice. That power. That strength, fearless and true. No matter how much I tried to hit those notes and unveil that depth, I failed abjectly every time.

Because there was only one Whitney.

And as time went on, and as I started singing along with Anastascia, Powderfinger and Celine, I grew apart from Whitney. The hard drugs, the bad marriage, and the poor behaviour made me sad. Such a great voice, such a mighty talent, such a shocking waste.

She had almost disappeared entirely from my radar when one of my closest friends turned up one day clutching two concert tickets and the last vestiges of air in his lungs.

The concert tickets were for Whitney and his rapt joy at securing seats left little room for regular things like breathing.

“Yes darling, of course I’ll come with you,” making a mental note to upgrade my Sudoku app on my iPhone because I was convinced I would need an entertainment mode at the concert separate to Whitney.

And I am glad I did. Because sadly, for the most part, her Brisbane concert did not leave me in mute awe at her brilliance. Moreso bewildered embarrassment for her shoddy performance.

But eventually, finally, Whitney wound her way to her signature song, “I Will Always Love You”. Despite all negativity, that song and the way Whitney sings it, is peerless. Always will be. The mere thought of someone, even Dolly, doing a cover makes me uneasy.

But I knew Whitney’s form was not good. So I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

When it got to the part where she launches into that thunderous chorus (yes yes you know the bit I mean) there was an extended pause on Whitney’s part. Unhealthy in its length. She drank some water, freshened her lipgloss, sprayed something around her neck.

And the jittery audience waited. And waited. The boredom was deafening.

Finally, Whitney moved back to centre stage, clicked her fingers, the lights blazed and she started to sing.

And sing she did. Hitting that note like the pro we knew she was. Watch it here.

Even crotchety folk like me, who were making mutterings about refunds and time-wasting, sat up and listened. With respect, admiration and disbelief.

I was spell bound.

And now she’s gone. We’re about the same age, with daughters about the same age too. I shudder to think of leaving my daughter in a world without me just yet. I believe Whitney would feel the same. We can’t judge someone else’s life until we have lived it so we can’t make off-hand comments about “she had it coming” or “that’s no bloody surprise” because we don’t really know what went on.

So Whitney, let me say this to you. Thank You For The Music.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

TODAY SHE LEAVES

I think it was when she was in Year 6. I know it was just after 7.30pm. The reason I know that is because Seinfeld has just finished and this was back in the halcyon days when new episodes of Jerry and the gang started at 7pm weeknights.

We always watched Seinfeld.

My daughter and I got up from the couch. Me to head to the kitchen to stack the dishwasher, and Jade, I presumed, to clean her teeth and get ready for bed.

Instead she followed me into the kitchen, fiddled with a tea towel, rubbed her nose and asked me if I had any pictures of penguins lying around.

“Not off-hand, no darling,” I said, actually pausing for a moment to consider if I did. “But you could look through the Woman’s Day magazine I’ve got over there, or we could look on the internet?” (Dial up internet, of course, perhaps using Netscape as a browser. Ah, those were the days.)

It took a few minutes for the penny to drop, but I finally turned to her and asked the obvious question. “Jade darling, why do you need a picture of a penguin?”

Well, it turns out that she has a school project due the next morning, which has to be all about Antarctica - the explorers, the history, and of course, the penguins.

After the usual round of “I can’t believe you left it this late” and “When I talk with you every afternoon about your homework, did you not think to mention this, like, six weeks ago?” I realised had two choices.

Either my daughter could confront the wrath of her teacher (who, as an aside, I didn’t particularly like anyway) or I could do the bloody project for her.

I ended up having a very late night that night. The teacher who I didn’t particularly like gave me a B+ for my effort.

Fast forward to Year 12. I’ve dropped my daughter and her girlfriend at a party. I knew there would be boys there. I knew there would be alcohol there. I had checked with the supervising parents and I was happy that all was in order.

The call came in around 10.45pm. Earlier than I had expected. “Mum, can you please come and pick us up? We don’t feel very well.”

 About halfway home, with the girls in the back seat, they ask me if I can stop. They needed to be sick. During a break in the chundering process, I asked my daughter, “What were you girls drinking?”

Midori, was her blithe answer.

I hid my shudder at the thought of that sickly sweet syrup that reminded me waaaaay too much of Peach Cooler.

“Darling what were you mixing it with?”

She stares at my blankly. “You’re supposed to mix it?”

I’ve hung out kilometres of nappies and folded them with care. I’ve hidden bikes and trampolines outdoors and tied tinsel to her wrist, so when she woke on Christmas morning, I could watch her joy as she followed the trail to her new present. I’ve interviewed teachers and child care workers and potential boyfriends.

I’ve made lunches so yummy that she’d never want to swap them. I’ve spent rainy weekends watching The Lion King, The Aristocats, and Aladdin repeatedly. I’ve hidden behind a pole at Woolies at Indooroopilly and watched her operate a cash register when she got a part time job.

I’ve driven hundreds of kilometres with gibbering teenager girls clipped into every seat belt, who said “Oh my God” so many times I began to think the good Lord was in our midst. Sometimes I even crossed myself just to be on the safe side.

I’ve fancy-dressed her as a fairy, a princess and Joan Jett. I’ve pulled nits from her hair, painted her toe nails and wept loudly when she went overseas for the first time.

I’ve spent 20 years kissing her, 20 years holding her, and 20 years listening to her hopes, dream and fears.

And today, I kiss her for the last time in many months. She’s off on the adventure of her life, heading as many Aussies do, to the UK for a few years. London won’t know itself when Miss Jade arrives.

Lucky London.

There's no more time for advice, for cautioning, for leading by example. Whatever I've taught her, shown her, given her, this is it. It's up to her now. And I've never been prouder. 

The temperature will be minus one when she arrives. All I keep thinking is “I hope her coat is warm enough”.

Mothering never ends, does it...