I was three years old when the Osmonds rocked my world, and despite the dim, fragmented, early childhood memories I have of the seventies, the regularly maintained Friday night routine from 1976-1979 remains crystal clear.
After bathtime, my parents would snap me and my brother into our Carter’s footie pajamas, tuck us into their giant bed (or so it seemed when we were extra-small), and bring up a bowl of Jiffy-Pop to munch on, as we sat glued to the TV set. Mom and Dad, who were frantically busy by nature, would settle down to watch the show, too; there was just no way to resist the talented, brother-sister pair of (ice-skating) singers who embraced the dazzling style of Liberace, were backed by a killer live big-band, and knocked everyone out with their authentic, sparkling smiles. As 9:00 drew nearer, my brother and I would fight the urge to sleep, holding out for “Tomorrow”, the greatest of all lullabies that signaled the end of each show and the beginning of each new chapter. It was a ritual, and it was wonderful.
For Christmas one of those years, Santa brought me a record player and microphone, and my cousin and I would take turns playing the role of Marie, depending upon who was feeling more country or more rock and roll on any particular day. We donned our grandmother’s old, nylon negligees over our Healthtex bell-bottoms and put a lot of lip gloss on each other, in order to mimic Marie’s look on the album covers. We made up dance moves to “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” and rocked out to “It Takes Two”, but it was “The Umbrella Song”, a ballad about love being an umbrella from the rain of life’s turmoil and loneliness, that struck a chord with me the most.
When I was six years old, my parents took me to see the Osmonds at Valley Forge Music Fair, and to this day, my heart skips a beat when I recall the excitement surrounding the event. I was all kinds of dressed up and being a very social chatterbox, I must have struck up a conversation about it with Mrs. Downey, the lady who lived next door. I don’t remember what I said, but I vividly recall standing in her small garden on the side of her house, watching her snip a few of her beautiful climbing roses for me to have as a gift for Marie. I proudly wrapped a handwritten letter around the stems and carried them into the concert, where security immediately insisted that I put them in a box filled with flowers and letters from other adoring fans, but assured me that she would love them. It didn’t really matter, though - I was in the same room with the Osmonds, listening to their music, and all was right with the world.
After the Donny and Marie television show ended, along with the Friday night ritual, and after I packed away the look-alike dolls and became a fan of other musicians; as life did its thing, knocking me down and lifting me up; as I lost my hearing at twelve, along with the ability to listen to music and socialize effortlessly; as I heard a band play and my children speak for the first time through a cochlear implant almost twenty years later, and as I braced with cautious optimism for every twist and turn on a four-decade roller-coaster ride, the love, hope, and joy that echoed from my babyhood soundtrack continued playing, like an umbrella from the rain.
Donny and Marie will perform their final show in Las Vegas tonight, after a long, successful run at the Flamingo. My awesome husband took me to see their show for my fortieth birthday, and I was just as excited as I was when I was in first grade. Donny and Marie, good luck with your future endeavors - I can't wait to see where you go next. Thank you for the memories and using your gifts to make the world a sun-shinier place. May tomorrow be a perfect day. May you find love and laughter along the way. May God keep you in His tender care, till He brings us together again.
Goodbye, everybody! (Cue the exit music, kids.)