Monday, November 22, 2021

Huena verses the world

My late mom Huena Carter (nee MacIsaac) was a singing machine.

Huena sang. All. The. Time.

She had a pretty voice, too. Probably soprano. She wasn't trained, and I don't recall her, like, you know, ever belting it out. Huena simply sang  just loudly enough that anybody within 15 feet of her could hear. 

But she sang all the time.

Huena sang as she baked gingerbread cookies; she sang when she threaded sheets and other laundry through the wringer washer; when she rocked babies. And probably as she was knitting her trademark ambidextrous mittens, which of course could be worn on either hand.

Seems to me Huena sang as much as she talked

I also know that after she left her home in Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and migrated as a single woman to the city of Sudbury to study nursing, she sang to fight off loneliness. I know that because for a few years near the end of her life, she kept a sort of a diary, in a notebook my wife Helena bought for her and in which Huena made mention of that very fact. 

At one point in the early 1940s some officious hospital supervisor told Huena that if she insisted on singing while at work she'd be sent home and wouldn't be able to finish school. Singing  in the hospital, he said, was just wrong.  

Happily,  Huena reported, a local physician who I figure probably had a crush on her, came to Huena's rescue and defended her right to sing. 

She sang on.

Her repertoire was vast and ribald. And she adapted her favourites. 

To wit: In Nat King Cole's hands, the song Honey went like this:

"I'm in love with  you, Honey,
Say you love me too, Honey
 No one else will do, Honey,
Seems funny but it's true.

"Loved you from the start, Honey'
Bless your little heart Honey,
Every day would be so sunny,
Honey, with you"

Here's Huena's rendition, which I like a heck of a lot more: 

"I'm in love with you, Peter
Say you love me, too, Peter
No one else will do, Peter
Seems funny but it's true.

"Loved you from the start, Peter
Bless your little heart, Peter
Every day would seem much sweeter,
Peter, with you." 

Speaking of, another of her favourites, she didn't have to adapt. Eddie my Love was made to order for my older brother. "Eddie my love, I love you only only.." 

Another Huena hit? A delightful item about a soldier with a severe stutter. Goes something like this:

Beautiful Katy
You're the only g-g-g-girl 
That I adore.

"When the m-moon shines
Over the c-cowshed
I'll be waiting for you by the k-kitchen door."

Remind me to ask my wife, a speech and language pathologist, if she finds that one as much fun as I do.

Many of mom's go-to's were old Scottish ballads like Donald where's your Troosers? 

"Let the wind blow high let the wind blow low, through the streets in my kilt I'll go;
All the lassies say 'helllooo' Donald where's your troosers?"

I'm thinking my eldest brother Pat named his youngest son Donald only so he'd get to hear Huena do that one.

What's really important is that when I needed all those lyrics for the purpose of this blog, they were right there where I needed them at the forefront of my brain. I started writing this about half an hour ago. Not one lyric did I have to look up. 

My singing mom engraved lyrics to Wild Colonial Boy and Bell Bottom Trousers in our brains right beside the words to the Our Father and the St. Clement's church Sunday Mass schedule. (9:00 a.m., 10:30, noon. If you slept in past noon you'd have to go to a suppertime French mass up at St. Eugene's.)   

Sometimes I think my mom had so many kids just so she could come up with songs for each one of us. 

Then again I'm such a slave to science I recognize that one of the reasons Huena had so many kids was that my equally Catholic dad Tom really liked when Huena sang. 

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