When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, What will I be? Will I be pretty?
Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me…
My mother loved that song and insisted I play it for her on the piano. She adored Doris Day too, mostly for her blonde hair, I suspect, ie. her leading role on the stage of American womanhood.
This was long before the internet at a time when one didn’t go looking for a beautiful blonde gal’s background which was awfully suspicious given her real name: Kappelhoff.
I bet my dark-haired, dark-eyed mother didn’t know that Day’s family wasn’t even Protestant, but Catholic like her own.
“It was the only ambition I ever had,” said Day. “To be a housewife in a good marriage.”
She was married 4 times.
But Day’s screen presence offered the illusion of ease and perfection, and perfection is what my mother was after.
Or maybe I misunderstood my mother. Maybe despite her prettiness and married-up wealth, she came to understand that all women, even blondes, suffer, that women’s dreams are lost, and that surrender was the only path forward.
Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, Que sera, sera. What will be, will be.
And yet, after her own failed marriage to my father, my mother began lightening her dark hair, little by little, year after year, until it was yellow-blonde, a color my physician father whispered to me in the hallway of the hospital outside the room where she lay dying, “It looks cheap.”
Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
I explained to him that his ex-wife’s alimony didn’t allow her to pay what his new wife paid to achieve the right shade of blonde.