Mom and Dad's Waltz: A Dance of Love and Sacrifice

Article excerpt

   I'd walk for miles--cry or smile
   For my mama and daddy
   I want them--I want them to know
   How I feel--my love is real
   For my mama and daddy
   I want them to know--I love them so.

   (Chorus)

   In my heart the joy tears start 'cause I'm happy
   And I pray every day for Mom and Pappy
   And each night-I'd
   walk for miles--cry or smile
   For my mama and daddy
   I want them to know--I love them so.

   I'd fight in wars--do all the chores
   For my mama and daddy
   I want them to live on--'til they're called
   I'd work and slave--and never rave
   For my mama and daddy
   Because I know I owe them my all.

   --(Lefty Frizell 1951)

I was born in 1951 in Peru, Indiana, to Martha Mary and Wallace Dangerfield, the sixth of seven children, and the fourth daughter. Due to the fact that there is a twenty years' difference between my oldest and youngest siblings, there were only my sisters Vicki and Rita and me at home until my little brother was born in 1958. My oldest brother Tom had joined the Navy straight out of high school and was married and starting his own family shortly after. My next oldest brother, Larry, was honorably discharged from the Navy when he was discovered to be nearly deaf in one ear after only being in for a few weeks. He married shortly after being discharged. My oldest sister, Jane, was thrown out of the house when I was very young; I only remember her leaving, never living there. My sister Rita, the middle child, got out of the house as soon as she could by marrying the husband of the woman she baby-sat for. Most of my childhood memories of home revolve around Mom and Dad, Vicki, Rick, and me in the brick house in the tiny town of North Grove, Indiana.

My oldest brother, Tom, was the family hero. He was so handsome in his uniform when he came home on leave. He always came home in his uniform, carrying duffel bags, suitcases, and his guitar. The first night of his visit always entailed Mom cooking him a big platter of bacon and eggs, then they got out the little Decca record player and played the old 78's. Then pretty soon, Tom would get his guitar out and play Mom and Dad's Waltz. Mom would get teary-eyed and both she and Dad would be happier than I usually got to see them.

Mom and Dad's Waltz was written and performed by Lefty Frizell, and was a top ten hit on the 1951 hit list. William Orville "Lefty" Frizell was born in 1928 in Tuckertown, Texas, where his father worked in the oil fields. This was during the time of the western oil boom. Lefty worked in the oil fields shortly, then began to sing in local honky tonk bars until he was discovered and began making his living as a singer. Mom and Dad's Waltz was a number one hit in 1951.

I didn't know where the song came from as a child. I thought it was old then, too. It was always a part of my life from the earliest time I can remember. My Dad had lots of old records and played them whenever he had too much to drink. They were mostly western songs or songs about work. He also loved westerns on the television we got when I was about nine years old. My mother preferred songs like Goodnight Irene, and sang them as she did her work.

Mom and Dad's Waltz was the one song they both loved, but then Tom dedicated that one to them every time he came home. Mom and Dad's Waltz became more than just a song to my family. It was the one time when feelings of love and warmth predominated over feelings of anger and disappointment. My Mom struggled to keep us fed and clothed on Dad's earnings, taking in ironing, doing mending for people, anything to bring in some extra money. Over the years, Dad brought less and less of his pay check home. He would come home drunk and mad, and Mom would confront him about the money and of course, it was gone. They would argue and fight, and eventually he started hitting her. When things got to that point, the visits from Tom and the music was the only thing that would bring things back to normal, at least for a little while. …