Oh, You Can’t Get to Heaven…

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You can’t get to heaven on roller skates.  I’ve known that song since I was four.  My mom would sing the front line, and I would repeat the back line in the black ’52 Chevy salesman’s coupe that was the very first car I remember, as the two of us would drive up from Indianapolis to Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  We were going to visit Grandma, and the singing would keep Mom awake for the two-and-a-half car trip through a litany of small towns on the state roads before President Eisenhower began the Interstate system.

Our travel repertoire included several World War II classics.  Mom would sing White Cliffs of Dover, and the line, “Jimmy will go to sleep…in his own little room, again,” would become, “Debby will go to sleep…”  It was my first history lesson, and history became my favorite study in school.  The upbeat WW II tune we’d sing was “Doe-see Doats.”  Years later, I sang both to school kids and my grandkids, who would say I knew a song for and about “everything!”

Mom taught me some college songs, sorority, and fraternity songs that I’ll bet not that many little girls knew. I sang Engine Bells and Whistles, Slew-foot Sue, and a song about the Tri-Delts, belting them out over the sound of the wind in the rolled-down windows before car air conditioning.  I did not share those songs with the kids in my life.

Alice Blue Gown was the one I begged for the most.  We’d…or at least I…would throw my head back and sing like, well, a crooner.  “In manner of fashion, I’d frown,” just like the girl in her blue gown.  And I asked for, and got an “Alice blue” nightgown, because of that song.  It was years later that I learned that Alice Roosevelt was THE Alice…another link with history.

I miss the singing, the Burma Shave signs, and my mom.  I’m awfully glad I was her co-pilot on those car trips, and I’m glad she taught me so many songs about “everything.”  I’m really glad that I know I can’t get to heaven on roller skates, because my skating days are over, and that is a very good thing all around.

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