I was listening to Emma and Lee singing ‘Que Sera, Sera’ after Ariane posted it and was moved to tears as I always am when I hear how heartbreakingly pure and sincere her voice is. It is so sweet that I can’t think of any word to describe it other than angelic.
I first played her ‘Que Sera Sera’ on You Tube about two years ago after hearing a slow and somewhat melancholy version of the song in a Francis Ford Coppola film. I’ve always loved this song, even in the brighter Doris Day version, which Emma prefers, though the way she sings it brings out the poignancy of the lyrics and melody in a way Doris could never even dream of.
Emma has near-perfect pitch and a set of lungs an opera diva would envy. But so much more powerful and affecting than those qualities is the sheer sweetness of her voice, like everything that was good and kind and happy and wonderful in the world was distilled in a golden elixir that pours out whenever she sings that song.
Most of the time, her singing is loud and raucous, though no less heartfelt and touching in its own way, at least to my ears. Emma loves to perform, though there isn’t any trace of ego in her desire to strut her stuff. I guess that’s part of her condition to some extent, a reduced sense of self.
Last night before bedtime she said, “Talent show?” very loudly while I was playing chess with Nic.
“Sure Emma, we’d love a talent show,” I replied, smiling at Nic who smiled back with a “here we go again” sigh and headshake that seemed to sum up all his conflicting feelings – amusement, love, frustration, exhaustion, mild embarrassment. There was no one else in the house, so I’m not sure he felt any embarrassment, other than perhaps a conditioned response to similar, more public displays.
Myself, I was very much looking forward to the show, which turned out to be a medley of Carole King songs for children, culminating in ‘Chicken Soup with Rice’, which she belted out like a Broadway veteran. She always goes for the big finish and this particular song jumps up an octave or two at the end. She totally nailed it. Nic and I laughed and I applauded as loudly as she sang.
People often ask me whether Emma has any special talents. When anyone asks a question like that I figure they’ve been watching “Rain Man” and want to know if she has any savant abilities. I usually say that those types of abilities are associated with what has traditionally been called Asperger’s Syndrome – though I recently read that the medical community wants to abolish that term and use ‘Autistic Spectrum Disorder’ for everyone.
After that disclaimer, I will typically add that she does have an incredible memory and will mention things that happened to her when she was two or three years old. She can also remember very specific catalogues of objects, particularly photos. She really likes photos and home movies – I think they help her talk about and identify people, things and activities she enjoys. She has a shoe box with 100 or more photos inside and she will know instantly if one is missing, setting off a frantic household hunt for the lost picture in order to stave off a total meltdown or some self-injurious behavior, like biting her arm as hard as she can.
She is also extremely advanced in a wide variety of physical activities: skiing, climbing, balancing, jumping, swimming.
And of course, she loves to sing and dance.
There was an award-winning documentary that came out a while back called ‘Autism: The Musical’. It was a very inspiring movie and we thought this might be something Emma would enjoy given her showbiz leanings. When they started a program called ‘The Miracle Project’, based on this concept at her special ed school, we enrolled her and are very excited to see what might come out of it.
Every year at her school they have a talent show and every year, Emma has been the star of the show, soloing in ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ from Mary Poppins in her debut performance. Since then she has referred to any of her singing performances as a talent show, which I love. I bought her a number of karaoke video games with microphones but she has been much more enthusiastic about singing along from memory to a DVD or You Tube clip. She has quite an impressive set list for her concerts now, which routinely take place at birthday parties or dinner parties (which are also birthday parties as far as she’s concerned), or whenever the mood strikes her. An audience of one or two is enough, though like most performers she likes to play a full house.
I’ve always thought that she’s a total rock star and someday she’ll be cranking it up on a big stage – leaving our ‘dinner theater’ circuit far behind. Time will tell. For now, I revel in her impromptu serenades and every time she says, “Talent Show?!” my heart skips a beat in happy anticipation.