How I Lost My Voice, Found It Again and Became a True Life Rock Star

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I watch my daughter trudge to the car under the weight of her ridiculously heavy backpack. Like most afternoons, she looks exhausted and a little soggy, like she’s been caught in a rainstorm and is still drying off: middle school. Her sister’s going to a friend’s house and the twins in our carpool have been picked up early for orthodontist appointments.

“It’s just you and me kiddo,” I say. She climbs into the front seat and smiles wanly.

“Hi mom. Can we go to Starbucks?

I smile back and say yes. The grocery store can wait. She’ll be 13 in a few weeks and lately I have a sharp sense of urgency around the time we spend together. Frappuccinos it is.

She’s flipping through SiriusXM heading for Hits 1, the all-pop-all-the-time station when she lands on 80s on 8. I barely catch the opening drum machine notes of the song when she clicks to the next station.

“Wait! Go back!” I say.

It’s Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.” I crank up the volume and the funky, post-disco beat vibrates through the steering wheel. My whole upper body starts bopping as I belt out the first line with gusto and authority. When the radio plays a song that I love and know every word to, I can’t help but open wide and sing it like a rock star.

This wasn’t always the case.

I lost my voice in the backseat of a 1980 mustard yellow Toyota wagon. I was 11-years-old, right on the verge of a teenage awkwardness I didn’t know was coming, one that would soon keep me from raising my hand in class and make me embarrassed to wear a bathing suit. My red terry cloth shorty shorts barely covered my butt as I shimmied in the back seat singing along to Eddie Rabbitt’s “Love a Rainy Night.” Just as I was about to belt out the chorus, my mom said, “Can you please stop singing?”

Now, as a mom myself who’s often driving a posse of loud kids, I completely understand the need to hush everyone up just to avoid running into the car in front of me or keep from missing my turn. As a gangly tween girl, I thought my mom told me to be quiet because I had a less than lovely voice. I decided to refrain from future public musical abandonment and my natural shyness coupled with the unwieldy hormonal shifts of puberty made my decision seem like a wise one.

In junior high, when I was forced to join the chorus because they didn’t have enough altos, I stood in the back and lip-synched. In high school, when someone cued up “Roxanne” at a party and the inevitable sing-a-long burst forth, I’d stuff my mouth with potato chips or sit quietly apart. In college, I might have sung out loud, but I was also probably drunk along with everyone else and you can’t exactly butcher the Violent Femmes. Even when I was pregnant and all the parenting books praised the benefits of singing to the baby in utero, I just couldn’t.

I want to say there was “a moment” when everything changed and I finally found my voice again but really, there were many moments. Some I ached for, like when my soon-to-be-husband and I broke out into a duet of “Killer Queen” and another stitch pulled tight in the fabric of our love. Some were unexpected, like discovering that my singing voice had the power to soothe my restless firstborn and my frayed, new mama heart. Still others were hard won, like when I summoned the courage to perform on stage with an awesome group of moms from my daughters’ school last year.

This, now, in the car is another moment. My heart pounds with the thrill of it as I jut out my elbows and snake my head from side to side – all the while operating a moving vehicle – in what my girlfriends and I refer to as The Car Dance. I’m heading into the first round of “Too high to get over” when I glance quickly at Ella. She’s looking at me with exaggerated amusement and a dash of embarrassment. It’s one of her typical teen looks but it doesn’t fool me.

“C’mon! I know you know the words!” I holler-sing at her. She rolls her eyes.

Just when I think she’s gonna leave me hanging, she breaks out into a huge grin and into the next verse with me, arms waving, booty shimmying, her golden hair flying. There’s a light in this girl when she sings that she can’t stop from shining, even if she tried – and there’s no way I ever will. Her voice is loud and strong and full of possibility. I hope she never loses it.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “Something I used to love but now hate is…” or “Something I used to hate but now love is…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Allison (this week’s sentence thinker-upper) from The Latchkey Mom and Kelly from Just TypiKel. 

18 thoughts on “How I Lost My Voice, Found It Again and Became a True Life Rock Star

  1. Reading this was like the first gulp of air after being submerged much too long. Gorgeous, vivid writing, Lisa.

    What a joy to read!

    With heart & friendship,
    Dani

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  2. There is nothing like car singing, is there? Well, maybe the shower. I love when my daughter belts it out in the car – so free and unencumbered…it makes me happy. You captured that feeling for me!

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  3. Oh how I love this. Honestly, I’m right there in the car with the two of you. Sing out, Mama, sing out! My grade 5 teacher told me my singing voice was not unlike the sound of a rusty door. Ouch. It wasn’t until I was a mom myself that I felt truly comfortable singing anywhere but in the shower.

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    1. Oh the shower is a favorite spot and in the kitchen to Pandora while I cook (because I really don’t like cooking and the singing helps). Rusty door? That is just too harsh!

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  4. Oh wow did I feel sad for eleven year old you…and all the others along the way. I’m glad you found your rock star voice again and that you are singing with your daughter. Those days pass too quickly and those will be special memories.

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    1. You’re so sweet Lisa. I’m sure I made a bigger deal out of it than it was meant to be because when you’re a tween it’s all about you, right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hushed up my kids in the car — I love their singing but it’s super distracting! Having a blast duetting with them whenever I can.

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  5. Aww, I loved this. And I relate to the first part–the part when you stopped singing. I really don’t have a good voice AT ALL and I find myself avoiding having to sing in public, including prayers. Having an aliyah on the bema makes me sweat.

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    1. I’m sort of in the phase where I just don’t care anymore if I sing badly because I love singing – it makes me feel good. Now singing on the bema is a different story because there’s a certain amount of gravitas in that. And I have to do it in a month for my daughter’s bat mitzvah…gulp!

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  6. Gorgeous writing and I felt like I was right in the car with you, singing along. I’ve always been an awful singer but sing anyway. Except the one time I tried karaoke and the DJ guy got on stage with me to help. I might have ended early that time. I’m so glad that you found your voice again and that your daughter sang along. Thank you!

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