Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Three "S"s

I don't normally consider myself a superstitious woman. I am perfectly comfortable with black cats, the number 13, broken mirrors, hats on beds and the like, but I have been rather reluctant to share my personal experiences of the last eight days with all of you for fear that whatever entity hovering out there in the universe one might believe in, be it mainstream or off of the charts, might come back and bite me once again in the ass. I have decided to throw caution to the wind and take my chances.

I am, as most of you are aware, a facilitator of Jewish musical prayer. It is my job to stand on the bimah during worship services and sing my lungs out like there is no tomorrow. (For fear that there actually may be no tomorrow.) I help lead the congregation through their spiritual journey and I do this with my singing voice. It should come as no surprise that this is my busy season. Getting prepared for the High Holidays is a panic attack complete with the dry heaves waiting to happen most years, but this year took that paralysis to a new level. Last Monday afternoon, as I was preparing to leave for a community choir rehearsal, I felt a small catch in my throat. There was a hint of a rasp and the frog that was developing was quickly moving out of the tadpole stage. I attempted to sooth the impending amphibian with a shot of green tea and a shot of Ventolin. (I suffer from chronic asthma and as such I am quite sensitive to various triggers. The weather here in the GTA has been very un-September"ish". We have been experiencing the summer that should have visited in July. Hot, humid weather with nary a drop of rain for almost three weeks has been prevalent, and the air is filled with moist, sticky and heavily pollenated crap, most suitable for major allergy and asthma attacks.) Neither the tea nor the inhaler could calm Kermit, so hyper-ventilation ensued. By the time I arrived at the rehearsal, my voice was little more than a croak and was barely audible. Needless to say, I was in a panic. My choir friends were more than understanding, but I could see the concern in their faces. Rosh Hashana was a mere four days hence, and here was the cantorial soloist in total incapacitation. I went home in tears and cried inaudibly to The Husband who immediately leapt into action. He dubbed his recovery plan the 3 "S"s. Silence, Steam and Scotch. (I think that he was secretly hoping for a 4th "S", but that is another blog post altogether!)

It was decided that I would totally shut down all preparations for the next few days. No talking, singing or any vocal activity permitted. (Silence!) If you needed to contact me, iChat was the order of the day, or email. (Thank God for technology!) Choir rehearsals were out, as were rehearsals with the rabbi. All meetings were to be conducted in silence over conference calls, and all of my energies were to be directed at soothing the beast. Together, The Husband and I came up with a plan. I was to begin the morning with several cups of green tea with honey and lemon. I was then to make my way to the basement, where we were wise enough many years ago, to install a steam room. (Steam!) 15 minutes in the steam with a healthy shot of eucalyptus oil was followed by more green tea and gargling with a salt water mixture infused with vitamin C, grape seed, rosemary, rose hips, witch hazel, and sage. (A home remedy recommended on WebMD!) Hey! I was desperate enough to swallow castor oil if I thought that it might work. I was on a strict diet. Nothing that would irritate my throat was permitted. No dairy, citrus or caffeine. No chocolate (AAGHHHH!) and no excess salt. I repeated the tea/steam routine several times during the day, and while I was not allowed to utter a sound, I was kept busy with organizational details for the upcoming services. Finally, after a third round of tea/steam in the evening, The Husband presented me with his panacea. Scotch. Now, I loathe alcohol. It is the adult equivalent of serving me eggplant and I avoid it like the plague, but I was willing to sacrifice my right foot for a voice, so scotch it was. I have commented many times on The Husband's obsession with scotch and I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that he has close to 100 bottles of the shit. I told him to make it light, fruity and heavily watered down. The first evening's dram was brutal. I could barely swallow it, but swallow it I did. I can't believe that I am copping to this, but it did soothe the ache. The glow on The Husband's face was priceless. He was like a proud papa watching his child score the winning goal for the Maple Leafs. All of our years together and this is what it took to get me to drink scotch.

The next evening was much like the first, except that he decided to expand my horizons and try a new brand on me. I tasted like paint thinner and I complained vociferously in sign language. He relented and went back to the first brand. This routine continued for the next several days. I was constantly in a state of sweat from the steam, my skin seemed to develop an interesting olive green hue from all of the tea, I suspect, and I managed to singlehandedly kill a bottle of MacCallan.

I was overwhelmed by the emails and good wishes, but I was still very unsure of what I had in me by the time Friday evening's service rolled around. I was tentative in my first few pieces. Nerves combined with insecurity is never a good thing, but it became apparent that my voice was there and I became more confident with each note. By the time Rosh Hashana was over on Sunday, I felt I was back to at least 85%. Those who know me well know how this episode affected me. I am always on edge and nervous at the holidays, but this year brought me to a true state of panic. I have never before had to worry if my voice would fail me. It was always just something that was a part of me and I never questioned it. I now realize more than ever what a gift it is and how it could all be over tomorrow. I am eternally grateful for all of the gifts that have been bestowed upon me; my talent, my dear friends, my amazing children, my wonderful family, and most of all The Husband and his clear vision. Rosh Hashana 5770 will forever be remembered in our house as the New Year of the 3 "S"s. Here's hoping for a Yom Kippur that works as well. A little scotch couldn't hurt, either.

G'mar Chatimah Tova.


  1. Dawn,

    You were amazing this past week and especially on Rosh Hashanah. Talk about determination - that give 'em hell and take no prisoners attitude! We are all proud of you.

    Of course, you know, at our social gatherings, you will no longer be offered diet Coke with Lime as in the past.... it will be Scotch only from now on!

  2. A shickered cantor....hmmm...I thought you had a special glow :)

    Seriously - you were awesome and I am not just being a suck up.