Heathen…uh, heaven help me

I don’t know about anyone else but I had very specific ideas of what my kids would be like, or at least what the first one would be like. It would be a girl, like me (sure enough.) That girl would have dark brown curly hair like I did (Curls? Yes. Brown hair? Not so much.) This is not to say that I am so great, just familiar. And, she would be very into musicals, especially “Annie.”

When I was a kid I was obsessed with “Annie.” I would play the soundtracks to both the Broadway version and the 1982 movie version over and over again on my little portable record player, when I wasn’t mooning over Shaun Cassidy, that is. I knew all of the songs by heart, and due to a trip to see the traveling version as part of Barbara Marland’s birthday party, I felt pretty secure in much of the choreography as well.

Anyway, this obsession shaped a pretty big chunk of my childhood and spawned my later obsession with being adopted (which was a stroke of good luck when I found out at 10 that I was adopted in real life) and orphans (which was a little ironic when I became one for the second time at 17.)

I always imagined that I would have a little girl that would wear deep ridges into those same albums and Emily is as obsessed as I ever was, although videotapes have taken the place of the records. She has memorized both the 1982 version and a newer made-for-TV one by Disney. Here’s where the irony comes in again: when I say memorized, I mean that she has seen them each enough to “know” the songs, although her idea of “knowing” the songs and my idea of “knowing” the songs couldn’t be further apart.

When I tell you that I know the songs to this particular musical, I don’t mean that I know them in the way that people know every song on the radio. I don’t mean that I can sing the chorus really loudly and them hum and mumble though the rest of the song. I know these songs like they were written on my soul. I have listened to them hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

I have imagined what it would be like to be a depression-era orphan plucked from heartbreaking poverty into unimaginable riches. I have pinned my childhood dreams on playing Annie on Broadway only to wake up at eight years old and realize I am 5’10” and could never play a ten-year-old orphan. Never mind that I could hardly sing and couldn’t dance or act.

This is not the way that Emily knows these songs. Emily knows these songs at the top of her lungs, but just one line of any given song, and she does not actually KNOW even that lines worth of words.

For instance, there is a song called, “Easy Street.” It is the song sung by “the bad guys,” Ms. Hannigan, the mean orphanage manager, her good-for-nothing, criminal brother, Rooster, and Rooster’s dim-witted girlfriend, Lily. The song is about how they can’t catch the big break they imagine the wealthy have all gotten and it is during this song that they hatch their plan to swindle Daddy Warbucks out of $50,000.

In Emily’s version, it is “Heathen Street.” I must admit that I like the idea of a heathen street and I briefly had fun trying to rewrite the lyrics in my head to fit her title, but as funny as I found the idea initially, no song is cute after 1,000 times and with the lyrics butchered.

This has all left me searching deep within myself, wondering… worrying really, about what other things I may have imagined and wished for when I was pregnant with her. What other fantasies of mine have been twisted into her in order to drive me insane? The late seventies and early eighties were a pop culture torture goldmine.

Shaun Cassidy anyone?

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  1. Hey, Kate, how did we miss your birthday? (And where did that birthday post go, anyways?) Happy Birthday to you a little late.

    33 was a tough one for me — I kept walking around thinking, “Jesus had accomplished a WHOLE LOT MORE by 33.” Not that I’ve got as much to live up to — and I didn’t mind missing out on the crucifixion and all, but still, somehow I felt like I should have gotten my act together by then. This year I turned 44 and I am still in shock. Fortunately I can’t think of any major figures, historical, fictional, or whatever, for whom 44 was a benchmark year.

    Happy Birthday again.