What does Jimmy Durante have to do with me going to the Calgary Children’s Hospital this week?
I grew up listening to him on the radio and television. Who else could sing “Frosty the Snowman”? As a vaudevillian, he could do anything. He was my guy and I loved him. Hat cocked to the side he tinkled the old ivories pulling at my heartstrings with every phrase that he sort of talk-sang. It was definitely somewhere in between.
Jimmy knew how to reach the commoner. No wonder he captured my attention. There was an honesty in what he did and one of my favourite songs he sang was “Make Someone Happy”.
Making someone happy is a big part of what I want/like/need to do in my life. Now do you get the connection?
Off I went to visit my friends at Dr. Gordon Townsend School (attached to the hospital serving children needing medical services).
Okay, the physical comedy started right away as I threw props on my back and anchored my sound system, stand, etc. on my dolly at the far end of the parkade. I wiggled and wobbled (but I didn’t fall down, ha!) over the speed bumps with paraphernalia precariously swaying as I moved. Bag ladies would not be impressed with my feeble attempt. I fumbled for my credit card at the pay station pushing buttons randomly until one made sense. Mistake.
I wandered down an endless hallway to the elevator where I shoved myself in with a great heave and pressed the lower level button. I exited and waddled down another corridor. I came to the school doors only to notice a parking lot right beside their front entrance. Joke was on me! The trusty office administrator, Tammy or Queen Tammy as I now refer to her, painstakingly got my parking pass fixed. She had to go back to my car (oh yeah, forgot to describe the car) and affix the pass onto my mirror. The woman was a saint!
Does this sound like slapstick comedy? I thought so. It was vaudeville for sure!
The intimate performance at the school lifted me. I wanted the kids to feel the different emotions of the story without getting too maudlin. We gestured together and the story transcended. Ah, that made all of us very happy.
Off I scooted to four classrooms discussing story possibilities and playing with props. Genuine engagement wove through the day with lots of side conversations about my life, their lives and what interested all of us when it came to stories. We mapped out sequences and laughed often as hoops became giant mouths, draped cloth transformed into tree houses and elastics connected us to relationship.
At the very end of the day I walked into a group of students studying Twisted Fairy Tales. Okay, I was in! Before you knew it, we were creating tableaus for “Little Bratty Red from the Hood”. Oh man, what a riot! I felt myself getting louder, kids too! We couldn’t help ourselves. The laughter was contagious and I kept calling over my shoulder to the teachers, “Write this down! I don’t have time!” It was hilarious!
I packed up and was just about to drag my gear back when an angel man (he worked at the hospital) walked me right back to my car, carrying most of my stuff and waited as I drove up to load. Wow!
When I got home that night I made myself make a list of all of the things that made me happy about that day. There were so many. Mostly, it was how lighthearted the creation process had become. Joy in every moment.
Much love to Shelly Dean for booking me and the great staff who embraced their students with love and grace. I was in heaven.
I came across a recording of Jimmy Durante singing “Make Someone Happy”. I had heard it many times. Due to copyright, I can’t share it but the lyrics pack a punch.
“Make Someone Happy” By Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Jule Styne (1960)
Make someone happy, make just one someone happy, Make just one heart the heart you sing to. One smile that cheers you, One face that lights when it nears you, One girl you’re ev’rything to.
Fame, if you win it, comes and goes in a minute. Where’s the real stuff in life to cling to? Love is the answer, someone to love is the answer. Once you’ve found her, build your world around her. Make someone happy, make just one someone happy, And you will be happy too.
And so, that is the gist of my week.
If I can make one person happy, that is all I need.
I want to play Jimmy one more time before I go to bed.