I have been singing ever since I can remember. When I was a baby, my mom sang me to sleep every night, and when I was a little girl, we sang together during bath time. Some of our favorite songs were “What’ll I do With the Baby-Oh”, “Who Killed Cocky Robin?” and “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More”.
When I was four, my dad shot a home video that shows me bored out of my mind while he assembled the new Christmas tree in the living room (a process that took him the entire day to figure out). I was holding on to my stuffed Lady dog from “Lady and the Tramp”, spinning around and around with my arms sticking straight out like the agitator in a washing machine, singing “Away in a Manger” over and over and over again.
There’s also a video of me and my cousin Ashley, who’s exactly a year older than me, in which my dad asks us to sing a song. She declined, but I busted out a rendition of “Save the Leopard” to the tune of “Rockin’ Robin”. It was our elementary school anthem in support of our mascot, the snow leopard – an endangered species.
Needless to say, I almost never shut up during my free time. I was constantly singing – in church choir and school choir, in musicals at the local community theater, and in university and synagogue choir, too. My mom used to try to punish me by taking my CD player away, but I would just keep singing anyway – and she would be so frustrated!
I first watched “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews relatively late in life. I was 13 years old and auditioning for the show at our community theatre, and I wanted to see what it was all about. I admired Ms. Andrews’ incredible voice, but she lost it that very same year due to a botched throat surgery. It took four years for her to be able to come back and sing in public, although with greatly diminished capabilities, in “The Princess Diaries”.
I remember feeling sad for her, but I never really had a good idea of what she must have gone through until I lost my own voice because of dysphonia caused by my chemo. Of course, I had never been as talented a singer as she was, but singing was still an important part of my life. For months after I lost my voice, I had incredibly vivid dreams at night in which I was still able to sing, and I would wake up believing that I could.
When I was invited to have an Aliyah to the Torah after my conversion, it was the first time I had ever been nervous to perform in public. I made my mom help me rehearse the night before, and I took my own prayer book to chant from rather than use the synagogue copy, since the transliteration is different. Afterward, while we were on our way home, my mom said, “You should have seen the look the rabbi and the cantor exchanged after you finished chanting. They were like, Whoa!”
But I miss singing when I wake up in the morning. Singing in the shower. Singing along with my favorite songs on the radio. Singing amongst the congregation on Shabbat.
I just haven’t been able to adjust very well to losing my voice.