“There are good days and there are bad days, and this is one of them.” ~ Lawrence Welk
When I was a child, no matter what else happened in our household during the course of any given weekend, two things were certain: 1) the entire family would attend church on Sunday mornings, and 2) my Saturday night bath-time ended when The Lawrence Welk Show started. It didn’t matter when I started or how long I stayed in the bathtub. What mattered was that my behind was firmly planted in my miniature rocking chair, directly in front of my mother’s chair, by the start of the show.
Why the precise timing, you ask? Well, it was all about my braids. Until I was in the last years of high school, I never cut my hair. As a farmer’s daughter and unrepentant tom-boy, this fact was a small consolation for my mother, who was rather shocked when her baby girl grew up loving snakes and frogs and playing in the dirt. I’m guessing that’s also one reason I grew up playing the violin as well. And while she might not appreciate my snake show-and-tell moments, Saturday nights belonged to her. After a good shampoo and condition, my long hair was indeed a rat’s nest of snarls and snags that frequently tested our patience. Gradually, she hit on the solution — occupy us both. So Lawrence Welk it was.
By the start of the show, I hit my chair, armed with a towel, comb, brush, detangler spray, and rubber bands. My mother brought her gentle touch, a whole lot of patience, and her beautiful voice. And for the next hour, we watched the antics and sang along, toes tapping, chairs rocking, to the beautiful “Champagne Music” of Lawrence Welk and the Welk family performers. During that same hour, my swirling mess of tangled locks was transformed into long, smooth braids. Sometimes just one down my back, most often two, one flipping over each shoulder the rest of the evening. When they came apart on Sunday mornings, I had wavy, tangle-free hair, which drastically shortened the amount of time it took to get the family out the door to church on schedule.
Every now and again, I stumble across The Lawrence Welk Show some Saturday nights on PBS, and I always stay to watch through the end. I don’t always remember the specific show, but oftentimes I’ll remember one of the numbers or a crazy costume or scene that they staged. There were certain people who were always there, that always performed. Bobby and his dance partners. Myron Floren, Guy and Ralna. I still suspect my mother had a crush on Tom Netherton after he became a regular. And why not? Even my childhood heart fluttered a bit when he flashed those pearly white teeth at the camera.
This undated image provided by The Lawrence Welk Show shows Lawrence Welk embracing Norma Zimmer, who was known as "The Champagne Lady," who died May 10, 2011 at her home in Brea, Calif. (AP Photo/The Lawrence Welk Show)
But the one person who could stop my mother’s careful brushing with the sheer beauty of her voice was Welk’s Champagne Lady, Norma Zimmer. It should be no surprise, then, that news of her passing
a few weeks ago set me on a You Tube and iTunes hunt for music from the show, and particularly her songs. Her voice was just as I remembered it. So much so that for just a moment, I was six or eight again, waiting for her song to fade away and my mother to resume brushing my hair.
Among many selections available, this tribute on You Tube is a great selection of pictures as well.
And no Welk moment would dare end without a proper good-bye, Welk-style of course.