We had made friends with some other little kids in the campground and one of them came up with this idea to sing for our parents. We practiced a song called "Lilies of the Valley," hiding back in the woods, over by the stream where no one could see or hear us. A girl, not one of my sisters, was in charge of practices, organizing everything and setting up the performance.
Really most of the details are fuzzy until I get to the actual performance, which is a clear and vivid memory. Our little group singing in front of half a dozen adults. The adults smiling and laughing, probably because we were so cute, but what did I know about the workings of the adult mind? I thought they were mocking us. I had been chosen to sing a brief solo, which I did, all the while in agony due to the laughter. I remember cracking on the last couple notes, unable to focus, knowing how terrible I sounded, hating their eyes on me, feeling intense shame and humiliation.
We finished "Lilies of the Valley" to grand applause, which didn't come close to making up for the laughter at the beginning. They begged for more, and we complied, singing two other songs we had practiced. I say "we." Not me. I never wanted to sing again. I stood there like a stone, just watching the audience. They didn't laugh as they had at first, but it didn't matter. The damage was done. Music and I were not friends from that moment on.
I could continue with other episodes involving singing, embarrassment and the torture of having to participate in choirs, up until recent years. Now I'm done. I will sing in church if my husband opens the hymnbook and holds it in front of my face. Then I'll sing about half the notes. Maybe.
And it all goes back to "Lilies of the Valley." I must have had a fairly good voice and tone or the bossy girl in charge wouldn't have picked me for the solo. But that one event shaped me for a lifetime of not singing. No loss. There's plenty of music in the world without my contribution. Interesting how our earliest experiences make us who into we are.