Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Sopranos (Really.)

From time to time I have mentioned my son Gavin whose challenges with autism/developmental delay are offset by the gifts of a tremendous memory and talent for mimicry. Gavin remembers every line from every beloved movie, and when he gets going you would swear that everyone from Phil Harris to Kathryn Beaumont to Jerry Colonna was in the room with you.

Lately Gavin has been spending a lot of time on YouTube looking up the movies that Family Channel Canada used to screen in the days of his youth. He was overjoyed to come across this clip of Jeanette MacDonald and Ramon Navarro in 1934s The Cat and the Fiddle. He spent the entire weekend enjoying the Jerome Kern music to the exclusion of any other diversion.

My youngest sister Tracey at six. She was and always will be 16 years my junior. She was and always will be a woman of strong opinions.

It was at this age, and in response to what I can only assume were some annoying scales and arpeggios issuing from my throat, that she declared (with hands on hips) "If you can't sing like Jeanette A-Donald, forget it!"

Well, maybe I can't sing like Jeanette A-Donald...

... but my son sure can!


  1. Caftan Woman, I loved your movie clip, and I appreciate you sharing your story about your son; in fact, you have a lovely family!

    As the mother of a beautiful, kind, whip-smart, high-functioning Aspie tween who has also been diagnosed with ADHD, I can totally relate! My daughter Siobhan and several of her Aspie friends are all incredibly creative, with genuine talent at acting, singing, and other forms of creativity, as well as doing great at school (with an Inclusion Aide to keep them focused). Siobhan (a.k.a. "Shugie" -- pronounced like "sugar," except it ends with an "ee" sound, not an "er" sound) has an uncanny knack for remembering lines from movies and TV shows she likes, including mimicking the characters' voices. She's like a one-woman show! One of our family's fondest memories: when my mom was visiting us in NYC when Shugie was about a year-and-a-half old, she was watching an Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie (to my chagrin, I can't remember which one it was!). She still liked to carry around the baby blanket she'd gotten at the hospital when she was tiny. We were all watching Ginger on TV dancing in a long, lovely gown with Fred when Shugie decided she wanted to dance, too. She wrapped the blanket around her waist and began dancing and twirling around quite gracefully, with the blanket swaying as if she was really wearing a gown!

    Sorry to blather on so, Caftan Woman, but thanks for sharing your stories about your dear family, and thanks for bringing back happy memories!

    By the way, if you're interested, here's a link to a TotED blog Vinnie and I wrote about Shugie during "Blogging for Autism" day last November:


  2. Dorian, thank you for the comment and for the blog link. I really enjoyed reading about Siobhan. She sounds like a remarkable young lady.

    Gavin is like a little kid inside the body of The Hulk, and has that green fellow's unfortunate double-sided nature. We celebrate his victories and support his issues.

  3. You and Dorian are exemplary Moms, and I think I can count myself as one of you. One of my boys was born with difficulties as well. It was hard going for him in many ways. He had a cleft lip and palate which needed surgeries and led to hearing problems, and he got the old bipolar from me. It's considered now a familial thing. He also got OCD and very mild Tourettes, which I was perosonally relieved to hear comes from the father. Really - they have discovered that both of those conditions sit on the same gene, and come from the male. Science, huh?

    He is 37 now, very happily married, 2 beautiful kids, past the traumas of cruel school days and well-treated by a great doc. Isn't it strange, but he also is artistic, fabulous musician, draws, and can rival Oscar Wilde in incredible puns. He is so intelligent. I wonder why these types of conditions always come with artistic personalities? It's the same for me.

    I loved singing like "Jeannette A-Donald." What a doll! Your son Gavin is a man after my own heart. He sounds great!

  4. Becky, let me congratulate you on your lovely son and family.

    50 years ago they would have called me a "cold mother" to explain away the autism. My heart aches for the moms of yesteryear and the guilt placed upon them.

    Here's a group hug for all the great moms.

  5. Oh Paddy you are so right. Mothers got blamed for a lot of things, most things actually. What our forebears went through with these kinds of problems! Poor souls! As hard as it is to see our children suffer, at least we know what it is and whatever is available to them to help. Plus support groups - it used to be shameful stuff that everybody wanted to hide in the attic (sometimes literally!) Now there are people to talk to who know exactly what you are going through. That's a blessing too.

  6. Becky, Caftan Woman, I hear you! My poor mother was cruelly and undeservedly slapped with the "cold mother" label, too, because both my older sister and me had developmental issues that the ignoramous types of that era (mid-1950s for my sister, mid-1960s for me). One of the most infuriating aspects was that my mom happened to be a retired model before she began working in the NY justice system and at the now-defunct New York Foundling Hospital. She'd bring us in for tests and evaluations, and more often than not, some so-called "expert" would declare that we must have been having trouble because Mom was too busy looking glamorous to be a good mother, which couldn't be farther from the truth! Like you gals, my heart goes out to the mothers of yesteryear. Thank God people are more knowledgable now! I agree, here's a group hug to all of us parents grappling with such issues, and a toast to all of us and other families who have so many more resources available now!

  7. We must all run as far as we can with our gifts, be they talent, loved ones, or loved ones with talent (in which I include the ability to impersonate Jeannette MacDonald's voice).

    Great post.

  8. Jacqueline, it is the most topsy-turvey, surreal experience to look at my "husky fit" boy and hear Jeanette MacDonald. When you add to that, the look on Daddy's face, it's priceless.

    When the kids were younger I was treating them at a burger joint and Gavin was in "Peter Pan" mode. He was reciting all of Wendy's lines - pitch perfect of course. His sister buried her face in her hands "Why couldn't he do Captain Hook? He does a great Captain Hook."

  9. Novabreeze, I'll bet you're thinking of "The Nine Tailors"!

  10. Hearing about Gavin really makes me miss teaching. I can tell by your descriptions of him that he'd be one of my favorite kids. I would go back to teaching again,if it weren't for the staff at most schools and the hoops the California teaching system makes you go through.

    Me. Classroom. Kids. Blackboard or whiteboard. Time. Education all around.

  11. Brian, you don't have to be a teacher to teach. You just have to find a place to give of yourself.

  12. Here I am, girls, in all my certain age glory -- no more stained glass B or flowery blue B. Just the real B..

  13. Nice to meet you Glorious Becky!

    "The Real B" - sounds like a rapper. Would that make you "hip" or "hep"? I get confused.

  14. Novabeeze, I missed it by "that much".

    On "Car 54, Where Are You?", Alice Ghostley played "Pretty Bonnie Kalsheim" who turned away all suitors because no one could measure up to Ramon Navarro!

  15. "I can tell by your descriptions of him that he'd be one of my favorite kids."

    Brian, Gavin would like you too.

  16. Hmmmm.. let's see. If I were young today, I guess it would be "hip." If it were the fifties, it would be "hep." When I was a teen in the mid-to-late 60's, it would have been "groovy, man." LOL!

  17. Caftan Woman, You have a beautiful family.. Thank you for sharing them with us. Loved the "Peter Pan" story..

  18. Dawn, thinking about that "Peter Pan" day makes me laugh out loud. Thanks.



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