Susan's Blog

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Ziegfeld Mom

“I’m a Ziegfeld Girl,” Barbara Streisand as Fanny Brice says to her reflection in the mirror in the wonderful movie Funny Girl. She means she has finally finally made it to the top. She would now be one of the Ziegfeld Follies, who put on gigantic staged numbers in the early 20th century.

Ned and I use that line with each other when we feel we have gotten to a pinnacle in our lives. When the New York Times Magazine published my Lives piece a few years ago. Lives! When I was on the Today Show. When I was invited to the White House for a dinner. Ned’s had his share of such honors as well. More than once we have both been Ziegfeld girls.

Last night was a Fanny Brice moment but not for me. As usual on a Thursday night, I sat in on one of Nat’s band rehearsals. Lately I’ve been going to Nat’s private voice session just before band practice, too.  I crept downstairs to listen in. “Crept” because I wondered if he would be different when I’m not there. I think he is more relaxed without me. What would he sound like if he were more relaxed — not aware of me there? I guess I have a theory that my presence during his voice sessions make him anxious, make him think about things related to his time with me. He might associate me with home, the weekend, and his schedule. Maybe with me there he thinks about his schedule, rather than be in the moment of the song. And when Nat thinks about his schedule, he becomes excited/anxious. His excitement spills over into anxiety so easily. He waves his arms and rushes through the songs and slurs the words more.

As I tiptoed down the stairs to where he was having his lesson, I heard him speaking in complete sentences. Within the song, of course. It’s not that he’s expressing himself with complete sentences, but when singing, he speaks. He does not have melody for some reason. He used to have melody as a little boy. You couldn’t stop his “Frere Jacques” while on the T. Good thing he was so cute.

Well, he’s still so cute. And so his singing with a speaking voice is gorgeous. He has what I call a rapping style of singing. I heard him singing the words to “Accidentally in Love,” by the Counting Crows and, well, the words! “I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love…” Those words! His voice! His speaking voice.

Yes, I’m being ableist here because I am showing a preference for neurotypical forms of communication. But anyone who knows me has seen that I rejoice in any form of communication coming from Nat, that I am thrilled to hear him or see him identify a want or need. Speech of any sort — typed, spoken, signed, gestured — is the way we step forward into community space and declare “I am.”

But. I am a flawed human and I am an honest one, and so I must declare for myself that I loved hearing Nat’s spoken sentences, especially in the context of a song.  Interesting, too, that he does not use melody, so the words seem even more real to me.

Then came the odd moment of Nat in band rehearsal afterwards, and his words are much less intelligible. It may be the loudness of the other instruments around him. I sense an almost panic in his delivery during band, where he is struggling to keep up, to perform. I suppose that is okay, because he is a musician in this partnership with the others, and he does have to keep up as best as he can. But I don’t want him to panic and feel anxious.

But I don’t want him to stop growing, either.

I wondered if there will be a time when the others around him, although they are developmentally delayed themselves, will resent his delivery. I confess that I look for it. I search the other guys’ faces for disdain of Nat’s more severe struggle with speech. With enunciating the words, with keeping at the right pace.

There is no such disdain, except me for my own weak shame. Shame is one of the worst emotions we can feel. Shame can immobilize you, it can silence you, it can make you hate yourself. It can make you cringe like a kicked dog. When actually I should just be howling at the moon in utter joy about how my challenged son is a front man in a rock band.

Hello, Gorgeous.



This makes my day! Beautifully written. You can see on his face he has found what ignites his soul. He has found his gift! I am so happy for you both. It’s is a joy to see your child, at any age, find their passions, and make self-discoveries, whatever form that takes. Rock on, Nat!

— added by Carol on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 10:05 am

You go Nat!

And rap-style singing and rapping is a treat.

Nat as Ziegfield.

— added by Adelaide Dupont on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 3:30 pm

No need for labels, like “ableist”, you are simply a mom who loves her child’s voice. And you are allowed to be happy about it. No labels, just beautifully spoken words.

— added by michele on Monday, December 11, 2017 at 6:41 pm

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