When I was just a little girl, my mother loved to sing Doris Day's "Que Sera, Sera" to me. By then, Day had made her Oscar-winning song from the 1956 Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much her own theme.
The song progresses from the perspective of a child to that of a parent, but of course I only remembered the first verse:
"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,
"Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be will be,
The future's not ours to see,
Que sera, sera."
My mother's habit of singing to me was one of the many things, big and small, that cemented our bond. In fact, it's a tradition I've carried on with my own son. At the time, the song seemed lighthearted and lovely, the implication being that everything was going to turn out fine.
But today, the lyrics are bittersweet. Not knowing what the future holds can also be a very scary thing.
My mother lived to see me marry at 33 but died four years later. I never saw it coming. I think I was in shock for more than a year.
Yet even then I managed to maintain the laid-back "que sera, sera" philosophy. I had my health, a steady job and confidence in the future. But that was before I had breast cancer at 39 and lost my job at 46 when my industry–print journalism–imploded.
Now, as the 53-year-old mother of a 10-year-old son and a freelance writer, I can no longer sit back and trust the idea that "whatever will be, will be."
I want to know that everything will be all right–for him, for me–even though I'm old enough to have learned that life is about change, be it wonderful or awful. Just yesterday, my husband's employer laid off dozens of people. These are uncertain times.
Lately, the song playing in my head isn't "Que Sera, Sera" but the Roches' "Mr. Sellack":
"O Mr. Sellack,
Can I have my job back?
I've run out of money again.
Last time I saw ya,
I was singing Hallelujah,
I'm so glad to be leavin' this restaurant.
"Now the only thing I want,
Is to have my old job back again.
I clean the tables, I'll do the creams,
I'll get down on my knees
And scrub behind the steam table."
When I was younger and everything felt possible, I moved solo, without a care, to Colorado, then New York. I guess I didn't know any better; the economy was also a whole lot healthier. Now, the prospect would keep me up nights.
Apparently, mentally strong people don't shy away from change. The only thing we can control is how we react to the ever-shifting ground on which we stand.
These days, as I struggle to keep my balance, I sometimes wish I were a girl again, with my mother singing "Que Sera, Sera"–and making me believe everything is going to be all right.