I can’t remember my mother’s voice.
My mom has been gone for more than 61 years. This may seem impossible to many of you, but there was a time when voice mail, answering machines and video recordings didn’t exist.
I can still see her beautiful smile. I have a sense of her soft touch as she rubbed Tres Flores gel into my head and parted my hair perfectly. I can still feel the teeth of the comb scraping against my scalp. “Thanks Mom,” I would say. I can see her but I can’t hear her voice replying.
Like the storyline in Disney’s animated classic “CoCo,” not being able to summon my mom’s voice in my head makes me feel as though I have lost her and part of our family legacy. I cannot help but feel sometimes as though I have a betrayed her by not remembering … as if my mom were incidental to me.
The recent loss of legendary Hall of Fame Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully punctuates the importance of a voice. According to ABC News, “Vin was the longest tenured broadcaster with a single team in pro sports history.”
Vin was calling the games with legendary Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Fernando Valenzuela. There simply aren’t enough accolades to bestow on Scully, who many consider to be a broadcast icon. And if you were a Dodger fan, Vin became like part of your family
There was a time, not that long ago, when you watched baseball on radio. You could see the game through Scully’s voice, description and inflection of every call on and off the field. The year was 1965 and Vin called Sandy Koufax’s legendary perfect game. I remember watching the game on the radio with my dad and siblings in our southeast Bakersfield home.
Scully’s time stamping the action on the field throughout the perfect game added unprecedented drama to the historic game. “It’s 9:46 p.m.. Swung on and missed. A perfect game! In the city of the Angels,” Vin announced. Scully’s voice mesmerized me, and I am sure thousands of other loyal Dodger fans.
I remember walking to the school bus stop the next day and couldn’t wait to talk to my friends about the game. Vin’s voice made the historic game just as exciting as the actual perfect game.
Then there was the 1988 World Series game where after a 68-second pause to hear the Dodger crowd react to Kirk Gibson’s 9th inning Game 1 winning home run, Vin announces, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” As clear as day, I can still hear and feel Scully’s excitement.
I can easily summon the voice of “the most trusted man in America” when at the end of each CBS evening news broadcast Walter Cronkite would say, “And that’s the way it is.”
“The door’s closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the jellos a jiggling.” If you knew this was the late Chick Hearn announcing the imminent winning of a Laker basketball game, you get the voice picture to which I try to paint.
How far have we come in preserving voices for future generations?
My sister Espie purchased “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” a recordable storybook for Skyla, her 3-year-old great-granddaughter. Recordable storybooks allow you to record your voice while reading classic fairy tales. As your child turns each page, it will be your voice reading the fairy tale to them.
I wish I could show you the amazement in Skyla’s young eyes as she opened the book to hear her great-grandma’s voice say, “A gift for Skyla Rose Gardner. Read to you by Grandma Aurora Cruz. Skyla, here is a bedtime prayer that you and I can always share. So, whether we are near or far apart, you’ll know you are here in my heart …”
I believe the special power of a forgotten voice is embedded in our DNA. I may not be able to summon my mom’s voice, but I do have the feeling of hearing her.
My imperfect wish for you is to hope you feel the same way about your now departed loved one’s voice.
Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed here are his own.