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When I was but a wee bitty child in the late 60's, I gave my parents cause for concern for two reasons:

1- I had the hearing of a German Shepherd.

2- I was pro-Union.

(But first: I apologize for all of the typo's; I was on some pain meds from pain. I had had nothing to eat all day (as one of my back teeth is threatening to either fall out or shatter into a Walter White Fulminated Mercury square) and those pain killers: wow!)

Now, the first part, the one with the dog. While both stories are interesting, the first one is funnier. And helpful.

This realization hit them when, as a graduate of UCLA, my father watched every Bruin's game on television, no matter what else was going on. (Such as The Great Flood Of Baldwin Hills, which "disaster" occurred when I was four, and some sort of dam device [see what I did there?!?] sprung a leak and was threatening to flood homes and garages and barns and kill the chickens and knock over the cows. Don't mock that last one: I lived in LA when there was an actual dairy cow farm straight down Olympic Boulevard. This potential deluge was only... I don't know how far away it was from where I actually lived then [20 miles] and I didn't know that the leak was so tiny it might, MIGHT, have made a mess in a mouse's kitchen, but this was the new age of "BREAKING NEWS!!!" and helicopters. The very idea of a flood scared the holy hell out of me. I was four. I was at a neighbor's, SWIMMING [no shit] and the neighbor came out to the backyard and told everyone to come inside, there was this "BREAKING NEWS!" of the "Dam Burst of Baldwin Hills". I was out of the pool and dashing for my house, because if the flood was coming, I could take cover on the second floor, in my room, on my canopy bed which was four feet off the floor. [I should have been in the Olympics, because getting in to that bed, when you're four, took a running start and a massive hop; I stuck the landing about 80% of the time, too.])

Anyway, Dad was watching a Bruin's game while this Hideous Disaster was happening, and nothing Mom said could get him to change the channel on the TV in their bedroom, which was the only colour TV of the three we had, but it didn't really matter: the flood was averted by the fact that it was much ado about nothing, (or Lloyd Bridges donned his wetsuit and closed the leak with some chewing gum and a stingray).

Okay, I realize this might all seem like so much fluff and featherdusting, but I really am charging straight at a legitimate point: Henry Bibby.

No, really. Henry Bibby was my favourite player. (I think it was the "Bibby" part: I was fascinated by that name. "Bibby". "Bibby." Bibby, Bibby, Bibby. And, recall, I was four.)

My bedtime was 7 p.m. Mom tucked me in, then went down the hall to the master bedroom to watch the Bruin's game (if there was one that night) and INEVITABLY, when Chick Hearn announced all of the players on the Bruin's side, when he got to Henry Bibby? I would sit straight up in my bed, from (what they thought) was sleep, my itty bitty fist in the air, and shout, "Go, Bibby!"

This fascinated my Dad. One night, he stationed my older brother by my bedroom door to see whether I was actually asleep when the name's were announced. Andy had some bad news. I was not asleep. I was fast awake, listening to the announcer, and when I heard Bibby, I did my shtick, THEN I fell asleep. Plunk. I was out.

Still, Dad could not figure out how I was even hearing the announcer, since my bedroom (with my door closed) was a good forty feet from theirs (it was an enormous, old, Spanish style place with adobe walls) so he tried something. He lowered the sound level on the TV set.

On Night One of the Great Bibby Experiment, he had the TV set at one level lower than the level it was when I was shouting "Go, Bibby!" (Lord, we lived in ancient times).

When Chick got to Henry, a pause... and I shouted, "Go, Bibby!" and fell asleep.

Dad did this for five more games. By the last one, you had to practically bend down with your ear to the speaker to hear anything.

"Go, Bibby!" I still chanted.

We just sort of accepted this... condition? for a while. However, when, on one of the contract bridge nights it was my parents turn to host (my folks knew a lot of people) I went from my room (I was six at this point) to the kitchen and asked my Dad to be quieter, please.

Apparently my folks had told their friends about this ability of mine, because at the table of bridgers in the living room (a room which was only for special company and Christmas [which, in a Jewish house, is a confusing time for a kid, but one hell of a haul because Hannukah was included]), a couple had been asked to, as quietly as possible, ask a question. On my way back to the stairs, I had one foot on the bottom step, then heard a quiet rush of tittering and chattering from the living room: they thought I DIDN'T have this great hearing, and Dad was obviously just bragging on me.

So, I turned around, went into the living room, up to the couple who'd been told to ask me the question, and said "Vivien Leigh".

The question they'd been asked to ask? Who was my mother's favorite actress.

The next day the folks made an appointment with the ENT. He tested me by putting a gigantic headset on me (I felt like a tail-gunner) and told me to raise my right or left index finger, depending on which ear had the noise being piped to it.

And did he try to trick me? He did. Sometimes, both ears had the noise, then the left would stop and the right go on, vice versa, and yes, he lowered the level of sound as far down as he could before the dial hit "silence".

He did a few more tests (I don't remember specifically what they were), but when he was done, he called my parents and me into his office. (Really, ancient times: a doctor who took time to talk to you in his office??)

The doctor folded his hands, and leaned forward. The tension in the room was thick like chunky peanut butter. (I was watching an errant quark make its was across the room.)

And the doctor finally spoke: "Your daughter has the hearing of a German Shepherd."

My mother's hand went to her pearls, and she said, in a shocked, fearful voice, "The dog?!?"

Dad (from whom I got most of my ability to be snarky) said to her, "No, Ellie, he means an Alsatian animal tender. Of course, the dog!"

Fortunately for Dad, Mom was carrying her small faux-alligator clutch because she gave him a pretty hefty "whap" with it, on his shoulder.

#2: I was a child who supported Union Labor.

(Shocked the German Shepherd right outta ya, huh? No? Well, it's a pretty good story and it has HENRY BIBBY ITTY BITTY FIST PUMP in it.)

My mother tucked me in every night, but she only sang one lullaby to me, and here's why:

When she was growing up in Cleveland, in the early 1930's (I've told  you, I was adopted when they were over 40) Mom was in the school chorus. And one day, the chorale teacher told them that they were getting a massive surprise the next day: they were to be visited and actually directed by one of the most famous conductors of the day: Igor Stravinsky.

On the day, all the boys and girls in the choir looked their best, and the small orchestra had all their brass polished, too.

Stravinsky was 20 minutes late, and the anxiety mounted. Finally, he arrived (and even though he was on his way down in the music industry, his name was one to be feared. Him, too, so I'm told. Especially by the rest of this story) and the choir got in place, the musicians took their places, and Stravinsky took the podium, tapped his wand on the conductors easel and they began.

The orchestra softly played some damned thing, and the choir joined in, nearly flawlessly. The singers sang, the musicians musished, for about a page and a half of whatever they were performing. At that moment, Stravinsky hollered, "Stop! Stop now!" and stepped off the podium, his eyes locked on one person. In the choir. My mother.

For all the world to hear, he said to my mother, who was 14, "You! You are off key! You are terrible! Get OUT!" I cannot imagine the humiliation and embarassment as mom gathered her sheet music and sweater, tears pouring from her eyes, and running all the way home.

Mom never sang another note, until many years later, when a new commercial came on TV, urging people to support unions. This commercial consisted of four women, their hands clasped, and, as a montage of men and women, sewing and hemming and buttoning and pocketing garments, were seen, the women sang, "Look for/the union label/when you are buying/a coat, dress or blouse"  and more in the middle, ending with "So when you buy it/you can say that it was made/In the U.S.A!" (Then came Sam Walmart. Peasant Tibetan children manually hooked rugs, and God knows who made the bikini's.)

Anyway, that was the lullaby Mom sang to me (and she had a nice voice, you evil dead Russian nasty man!)

Drove my father insane. It wasn't Mom's singing voice, evil dead Russians to the contrary, but the subject.

Unions. Dad would bark, "Don't sing that damned song!" and Mom just smiled and kept singing.

Dad hated Unions. Despised them. Loathed them. Thought they were commie plots and he said so and he did the Jewish two fingered spit curse when talking about them.

He really didn't like unions. Mom, on the other uvula, did. She'd been a nurse, and a union one at that, which was a very new thing in Los Angeles. So, she sang the "Look For the Union Label" song every now and then, drove Dad insane, then kissed my forehead and went down to the kitchen to have a...  discussion? with Dad.

If you can call roaring and bellowing and screaming a "discussion".

So it wasn't hard to hear them, even for someone without German Shepherd ears, because of the screaming and hollering at the tops of their voices part.

The hollering nearly always ended with them coming up to bed, Dad muttering  
"Dammit, Ellie, I will not have Union loving kids!" Mom twirled around, gave a little kissy smack on this cheek and said, "Oh, shut up, Kimmel" (she called him "Kimmel", our last name, a great deal of the time; sometimes "Dad" or "your father", but mostly "Kimmel".

It was a political home. You should have heard my 8 year old political stance against Nixon, and Dad's support of the only president who was ever driven from office by the villagers with pitchforks and torches.

Now, those were some doozy fights. They always ended with Dad, looking at an invisible person, and saying, "I'm arguing politics with a child!"

A very well informed child. With great hearing.

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