Doris Day died last week at 97, and the news of her passing instantly caused me an intense, massive and completely unexpected flashback.
Frankly, I don’t know if my parents saw the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Man Who Knew Too Much” starring Day and James Stewart that introduced the song, “Que Sera, Sera, (Whatever Will Be, Will Be),” but the song is one I can never forget from my childhood. My mother used to sing it to my brother and me as we prepared to brave the chilly Chicago winds off Lake Michigan (we lived on North Grace Street near West Broadway, just a couple of blocks off the water) on our way to school every morning.
My mother dressed us in layers and layers of clothing — long underwear, several pairs of socks, a couple of pairs of pants, a couple of shirts, a sweater or two, a light jacket, a big winter coat, gloves or mittens, several pieces of head covering and sometimes rubber boots — until we looked like plump, midget Michelin men out for an early morning stroll.
Sadly, our clothing ritual didn’t make a bit of difference and as soon as we stepped out of the back door onto our wooden balcony, the howling, freezing wind off the lake cut right through all those layers like they weren’t even there. We’d be shivering before we even hit the stairs. When we breathed out, our breath made a mist, and if we stepped into it, it froze right on our faces. Of course, if there was rain or snow or sleet or hail, we were that much more miserable.
A few blocks away at school, each classroom had these enormous coatrooms behind the teacher’s desk with rows of hooks and waterproof boxes where the students would shed their layers and boots before crowding around those old, silver radiators beneath the windows trying to get warm again.
Every morning after breakfast that winter, Mom would sing that silly song to us as she helped us get dressed for our brisk trek to school, “Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be, The future’s not ours to see, Que sera, sera … ”
As soon as spring arrived and the weather warmed up, I started begging for us to move out of town. When my mother asked me why, I simply said, because winter’s coming again! She didn’t listen and unfortunately my brother and I had to endure another winter in Chicago.
Even though she’s been gone for more than 40 years, I can still close my eyes and hear my mother singing to us from all those years ago. It’s funny, but what I remember most was how happy she was in those days. That makes me smile.
Now I doubt any Susanville mothers will suddenly break into “Que Sera, Sera” anytime soon, but let me give you a little of advice just the same. Go surprise your mom with a great big hug and tell her how much you love her, how much she means to you and how thankful you are for everything she’s done for you. It only takes a minute.
It’s your chance to create a wonderful memory to cherish in the years to come, and I’m sure she’ll appreciate hearing all those words from you, too.
Go ahead. Do it now. We never know what tomorrow might bring because the future’s not ours to see, que sera sera …