When I was four I lived in a small house in Pennsylvania Dutch country. It sat next to a church built in the late 1700s. We lived there because my father was ordained as the church’s minister on my first birthday. I know this because everyone tells me I fell down the manse stairs minutes before the ceremony.
I shared a room in that house with my beloved sister who was fourteen years older. She had (and still has) a beautiful voice and was the star of several high school and regional musicals before settling down to work for a nuclear research firm. Yes, in addition to being gifted singer, she was wicked smart at math.
Where does Sondheim come in?
She loved the movie West Side Story and played the soundtrack on repeat in the tiny room we shared. He wrote the lyrics.
Our favorite song? “Somewhere.”
My mother, getting her sea legs as a preacher’s wife, had already mothered three older children and had little energy for another. So for a time, I thought my sister was my mother. And when she left home for college, felt abandoned, alone.
Because I’d heard the West Side Story soundtrack so many times, I knew all the words by heart. And “Somewhere” became like a theme song. It gave me hope I would see my sister again. That I could be wanted, loved and made time for someday.
Here are the words of Somewhere,” which my four-year-old self named “A Place For Us:”
There’s a place for us
Somewhere a place for us
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
There’s a time for us
Someday a time for us
Time together with time to spare
Time to look, time to care
We’ll find a new way of living
We’ll find a way of forgiving
There’s a place for us
A time and place for us
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there
In college I studied theater before getting my MBA (and a job in finance). And too performed in many musicals — the last? “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” I played Domina and killed with the song “That Dirty Old Man.”
Naming my favorite Sondheim musical is easy — “Sunday in the Park With George.” It’s tortured artist love story and difficult libretto initiated my love for pointillism and Bernadette Peters. I’ve visited it’s inspiration several times (at the Art Institute of Chicago).
We never really know the impact we have on a life. What even a small child will ingest from our love, creativity, and presence. How a few moments of song can lift us from our darkest, and replay throughout our lives when we need it.
Thank you Stephen Sondheim for inspiring me as a child, and throughout my life. For giving me hope. For making me believe there could be a time where I would be cared for — and loved.
I hope you too found all your “Somewhere” lyrics envision.