Saturday, April 07, 2012

Under the Dumb Plum Tree

Chasing Dreams
by Jaime Kaufhold
(April 1991)

There is a plum tree in my backyard.
It has been there for as long as I can remember but it seldom produces plums. That is why I call it "dumb."

Over the years I have spent many an hour pondering life under the shade of my plum tree. While sipping a cup of tea, surrounded by my children, I spent many an afternoon dreaming of what I could have been. One day, I was an aspiring country music queen, playing the guitar and singing at the Grand Ole Opry House. The crowds clapped and cheered - I was famous. The next time I was an actress being whisked away in a private jet to an exotic land, wearing designer fashions while dining with the rich and famous. Oh what a glorious life it could have been . . .

Out my kitchen window I see the tree staring back at me. The plum tree has been more than a conduit of dreams. It provides shade on the hottest July days and is a favourite hiding place for the neighbour's cat. There are no more tricycles and the sandbox is long gone. The child sized swing sits idle most days except when the grandchildren come to visit. The tree has endured at least 30 winters with only one broken branch. Although I've often chastised it for not producing nice, succulent fruit, I guess it has had it's limbs full, so to speak.

What did I become?
A home handyman who can break up domestic disputes while fixing the vacuum cleaner at the same time. I am a nurse, chef, hairdresser and baseball coach. I am a full-figured model who knows how to shop for a bargain. While raising a happy, healthy family I've learned how to make do with I have and laugh at life's little problems.

With spring right around the corner, I am looking forward to another year of buds, shade and if I'm lucky, fruit from the tree. While reflecting under the plum tree I've discovered that I am somebody despite the elusive fame and fortune that so many of us dream about. I am a mother. And it never hurts to dream.


You can't get here from there 
By Karen Emilson

Reading Mom's column makes my heart hurt.
Had I been a more experienced editor, I would have asked her to expand upon her column to include details from the trip she took to Nashville, Tennessee in the spring of 1977.

Growing up, our house was filled with music. We'd come home from school, open the door and immediately know that Mom was dreaming again.  Of all Mom's desires, being a country music star was the one she savoured most. She bought a Fender guitar, wrote her own songs and taught herself to play. When she wasn't singing her own songs, she was singing someone else's - loudly and usually off tune. She forced us to be her audience so we'd sit there on the couch, being polite for as long as we could. Her band was the console stereo behind her and hidden inside were the back up singers, their voices coming through on vinyl—rich and deep—dust, scratches and all. The band played and they sang along with Mom for hours. To this day, I still know the words to everything by Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Charley Pride and Freddy Fender.

As a charter bus driver with Canada Coach Lines, Dad made regular trips to the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. Back then, long weekend bus tours were quite popular. Mom wanted badly to go along but the added cost and four kids made it impossible for years. Finally, when I was 14 and old enough to reign supreme, my brother Mark and I were left in charge. Wearing a cowboy hat, studded jeans and her best costume jewellery, Mom boarded the bus.

The more popular charters often filled up and two buses were hired the time Mom went along. The other driver, Doug Sullens, was a good friend and a frequent driver to Nashville. Doug was charismatic, boisterous, easy to talk to and he became acquainted with many of the performers. Knowing how much Mom liked Freddy Fender, he arranged for her and Dad to go backstage after the show. He introduced Mom as a hopeful country music singer and songwriter, and Freddy was very gracious. He asked if she'd brought along her guitar and of course she had. Soon they were in the middle of a jam session with Freddy and his band in Doug's hotel room, Mom's handwritten songs spread out on the coffee table.

It was obvious when Mom returned home that the experience was thrilling. Whether it was accidental or not I don't know, but she left behind her songs, and the way I remember it, Doug called her a few months later to say that Freddy performed one of those songs live at the Grand Ole Opry House, dedicating it to her. When Freddy's next album came out there was also a bit of excitement because one of the songs sounded a lot like something she'd written. Mom wasn't interested in royalties or recognition, all she wanted was a bit of validation—that maybe she was good enough.

People have laughed when I told them Mom jammed with Freddy, saying he wasn't a very big star. But had he been more famous he probably wouldn't have had the time to sing with a nervous, off-key housewife from Ontario. But maybe he knew they were kindred spirits, sensing that Mom's childhood story was similar to his. He went on to enjoy more success than most of us, while she was left to simply dream.
I always thought the song "You can't get here from there," was written by her because she sang it all the time.  On the surface it sounds like a love song, but it also could have been written by a girl who was sent to live with her grandmother because her parents were too young and irresponsible, spending nights in the bar instead of at home. Eventually Mom was reunited with her parents who turned their lives around, but those scars never completely healed. I have a duo-tang folder with pages in her handwriting, revealing those tough years, to prove it.

An internet search yesterday showed that "You can't get here from there" was written and recorded by Glenn Barber as well as Freddy, long before Mom met him. With all of them gone—Mom, Dad, Doug and Freddy—there is no one left to ask, to correct where my childhood memory went wrong. But there is no harm in keeping her dream alive by believing that somewhere out there exists an album cover with a song that might be hers. I just wish that I'd known to ask 20 years ago.

If I ever find out the real story, I'll be sure to let you know. 

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful memory! I remember mum singing that song--what I do know Karen is that Freddy Fender dedicated the song to her on one of his live albums. I remember because she played it for Darlene and I and I remember sitting in front of the big stereo listening. She was so excited- she positively beamed. I think the song meant so much to her because they sang it together when they had the jam session. So when she got his live album later and heard the dedication it really meant something to her. I still sing his songs when I hear them too!