Yesterday–or the day before, at some point on NPR–I listened to an interview with Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. The two were pitching their new children’s book, The Enchanted Symphony. Gifted women having a jolly time talking about themselves and their work together. It made me wistful…
Julie Andrews, as you likely know, has led a charmed life (I was surprised to find I am four months older than she) but she has also suffered blows in full view.
The first was when the role of Eliza Doolittle she created for the stage production of My Fair Lady was taken from her by Jack Warner and handed to better known Audrey Hepburn for his movie version. It must have been a stick-in-the-throat pill for Andrews to swallow when she learned Hepburn’s singing was Marni Nixon’s. Ah but a vicissitude of fate: that same year, Andrews’ talent overtook Hepburn’s fame when the Mary Poppins Julie created for Walt Disney won her that year’s Academy Award for Best Actress. If Andrews was vindictive, which I have the feeling she is not, her trophy would have been the sweeter because My Fair Lady won eight Academy Awards and Audrey Hepburn wasn’t even nominated.
After that, for over three decades Julie Andrews was box office gold…her list of roles, appearances, and awards in Wiki makes my head spin.
Then at sixty-two a second blow. Minor surgery expected to repair “a weak spot” on her stressed vocal cords resulted in her crystal clear speaking voice turning raspy. And–what her husband director Blake Edwards called “…an absolute tragedy”–the loss of her four-octaves-soprano.
Can you imagine?
Something good came of this blow.
In our family, often we apply the bromide, “No gift without a curse” (in the realm of “No good deed goes unpunished”).
In Julie Andrews case, it was reversed: No curse without a gift.
The actress singer and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton (Emma’s father was gifted stage and screen designer Tony Walton) took up their pens, began writing books. They’ve written dozens of children’s books together (cannot find the exact count), as well as Julie’s memoir.
Consider the dynamics of their relationship. Charming talented world-beloved mother and her first child. Tough dynamics…one has to walk tenderly; the other has to be appreciative, respectful, while remaining her own person. Actually, both have to do both.
This love fest began with my telling you I heard mother and daughter in an interview chatting with the illustrator about their newest book “…about the power of art, nature, and community…a powerful hopeful fairy tale celebrating life’s simple pleasure that bring us together…”*
I was moved.
And dare I admit to feeling envious? Envy is not permitted. Bad form. It’s just that my daughters are also gifted, and writers, but they are distant, and anyway would not be interested in collaborating with me (who can blame them?). Circumstances do not allow the possibility (in this lifetime) of such intimacy.
Andrews continued acting. And with grief therapy, more surgeries, and music composed for her one-octave range, she is again singing.
Another bromide from the Thompson family:
But you know, I wrote that line ten minutes ago, then grandson Cameron came home from school, plunged through my study door, I learned he had pepperoni pizza for lunch which made me think about the vegetable soup I want to make for supper** and now I can’t remember what it was I wanted to tell you…oy for those senior moments…
I think my point is that we do the best we can. We stand firm and hold fast–remember my quoting my grandmother, Head erect and tail over the dashboard? I love that.
I wonder whether Julie Andrews ever heard that expression. Doubt there were many British grandmothers who talked to their granddaughters about tails and dashboards.
But all grandmothers know that closeness in the family is the goal…
And in La Andrews case, courage, acceptance, resourcefulness are goals achieved.
There’s never enough of virtue in this world (except, perhaps, in your house).
Oh, I meant to mention that at the end of their interview, Mother burbled, “…and when we’re working we drink lots of tea!” Daughter gushed, “Oh yes, PG Tips!” and Mother repeated even smartlier, “Yes, PG Tips, lots and lots.”
Well, I’ve returned to black tea in the morning in place of coffee (I like drinking it from the fine blue stoneware cup my friend Nan threw for me, I like thinking of Samuel Johnson who drank his tea by oceans, I like the formality–tea is ritual). I thought I’d found the best tea bag tea (I’m partial to Ceylon and Assam teas, finest brew of course is from loose leaves, but a girl can only manage so much in a day and tea bags are a gift) in Taylor’s of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold Tea. I’ve been brewing it for Cameron and me every morning in the deep blue teapot of a dear friend who has gone on to his next incarnation). But of course I was struck by these two Brits on NPR, and so I ordered a box of the PG Tips Gold (“Best tasting”). It arrived yesterday, and I must say the depth of flavor is very close to Grace Tea’s superlative Owners’ Blend (loose tea, expensive), and the blurbs on the box speak of how respectfully the tea is produced. So the ladies have done a good deed…wouldn’t be surprised if there was a run on PG Tips Gold teabags…
I also bought The Enchanted Symphony for two great-granddaughters…they may not be quite old enough, but they’ll grow up to it. They are in Denver. Wish I could read to them.
Now I’ve got to make our vegetable soup!
*amazon.com, accessed September 25, 2023.
**Last night in the broth left from boiling the egg noodles I simmered skins and bones and gelatinous leavings from the Chicken Paprika–second night of the fine roast organic pasture-raised chicken–more of which topic soon. The stock is rich. I’ll add sautéed red onion, leek, fennel, celery, canned diced fire-roasted tomatoes, black beans…should I add cubes of gold potatoes? Yes.