At the ripe old age of 8, I decided I wanted to be one of the Lennon sisters.
It occurred to me that I wanted to change my lot in life while visiting my maternal grandparents, big Lawrence Welk watchers.
We visited every single weekend, and while the adults enjoyed the company of one another, we grandchildren were to sit quietly, instructed with “the look” that we were to not make a peep.
We wanted to go outside and play hide and seek or run lickety-split up and down Grandpa’s neatly trimmed orchard rows, climb those great trees, or explore the wonderfully clean barn with all sorts of interesting things that our barns at home didn’t have. Like horses, for instance.
But, no, we were expected to sit nearby in our black patent leather mary janes and frilly dresses without asking for a single thing.
While Grandma was about to serve slices of perfect pie or creamy-frosted cake to the adults, she would kindly inquire, “Would you children like some?” and before we got the notion to say something foolish, like, “yes, please,” my mother would quickly say, “Oh, no, they’re not hungry!”
We were born to the woman who most certainly coined the phrase “children are to be seen and not heard” and we knew we wouldn’t dare indicate that we were human children with a hankering for a taste of fresh cake.
We could be spitting sand from the Sahara Desert and we had best not let our sweet grandmother know we were parched and in need of a sip of water.
So, while the adults sipped wonderfully aromatic hot coffee and enjoyed luscious dessert, we watched bubbles fly across the black and white television screen, listening to “a-one, and a-two” spoken crisply by the musically-inclined wonder of the day, Lawrence Welk.
It was, for the most part, perfectly awful punishment for my three sisters and me.
Unless, by the grace of good programming, the Lennon sisters had the lion’s share of the hour.
Peggy, Janet, Kathy and Diane were pretty little things with the voices of angels, great harmonizers with enough sweetness and beauty to make us all yearn to know them better. There were four of them, and four of us. We four sitting mutely on our grandmother’s couch had been dealt a crummy hand in comparison.
It occurred to me that those four Lennon girls likely didn’t have to feed calves and milk cows before going on the air to entertain us all. They struck me as the kind of girls who ate cake smothered in creamy frosting at their grandmother’s house, with perhaps even a glass of store-bought chocolate milk to go along with it, most likely with a pretty little paper straw for their perfect sipping pleasure.
If we wanted chocolate milk, we had to milk the cow first, and then pray for enough Nestle’s Quik to produce at least the hint of chocolate. A paper straw? They were only for the very rich.
I didn’t begrudge the Lennon sisters their charmed life, I simply wanted to be one of them. They could add a fifth, certainly, and I would gladly be the kid sister that never landed a solo part.
The day after a big Lennon Sisters appearance, I would practice my piano pieces with a bit more gusto, never once trying to move the dial of the timer ahead while no one was looking, a little trick I alone had perfected.
When it was time to bucket-feed the calves, I would sing to each one, pretending I was Janet, dressed in blue. With newborn calves as my audience, it didn’t matter if my voice trembled a bit on the high parts.
I was, after all, only in the early training days of my career as the fifth Lennon Sister.