Brenda Lee’s “I Want to be Wanted” is getting increased air
time and is now at the top of the U.S. charts. Andrew, an infant –
so helpless, no new, so fresh – hears but doesn’t understand.
Infant Andrew only wants and only sleeps. His world is Sally,
planet Mom. Overwhelmed, in the following days she despairs.
Sally hears Brenda Lee on the radio but prefers classical music,
opera, and musicals. Tom Lehrer cracks her up. When Richard
returns home from work she’ll spin Lehrer on the semi-new
record player console, and they will laugh. Richard prefers news
of the day. He’s filled with pride for his infant son and concern
for Sally. To hear her laugh he sings a raunchy ballad or drinking
song from his Navy days. Sally laughs a throaty laugh and then
admonishes him “not in front of the girls.” Now home from school,
Jann and Kit check in on their baby brother. They don’t care too
much for news or their parents’ choices in music. They are excited
over Elvis Presley and save up their allowances to buy his albums.
Over 51 years later, I read the song lyrics and examine a picture
of Brenda Lee. I think of this song – unknown to me – and look
at her picture again. Sally died in 2009; her ashes are fused with
the mortar holding the rocks of a water feature together. It pleases
me to know that robins – some of her beloved birds – drink from
those falls and pools now. Richard – with his name changed legally
to Likeke – died in 1993; he remains in his beloved Hawai῾i. I am
grateful that we started working together and became best friends
during those last years of his life. Jann married a good man named
Bob and is now a great grandmother; they divide their time yearly
between Illinois and Arizona. Kit married another good man named
Bob and is now a great grand aunt and caretaker of horses in Texas.
Somehow I’ve ended up with the largest share of family records:
Tom Lehrer, musicals, classical recordings, hula music, and opera.
In a moment of inspiration I check but can’t find “I Want to be
Wanted” or any other music by Brenda Lee in Mom’s CD collection.
I haven’t listened to the song yet. It seems oddly prescient. Infant
Andrew has been remade over and over again into the middle-aged
man looking back speculatively, surprised from the mirror before me.
Surprised, too, at all the failed relationships: the two ex-wives and
the strings of ex-girlfriends. “I Want to be Wanted”: is it too late?
Andrew Shattuck McBride
April 3, 2012