My eighteen year old sister Annie is tremendously talented. She is classically trained in the piano and violin. She takes voice lessons. She does worship at our church. She is fluent in sign language, and has translated for different events. When she was 8, she attempted to teach herself french. I think she has a 5.0 in high school. You get the point. She is awesome. So when she told me she was going to write a college entrance essay on a talent… these are the things I thought she would talk about. Then she told me she wanted to talk about her not-so-hidden talent. I knew this was going to be good.
You see… Annie yodels.
And since she is the youngest of four, we have made sure that everyone knows about this secret talent since she was little.
Here is that story in her words:
A talent is usually thought of as an ability a person is proud of. This, unfortunately, has not always been always been my experience. In my oh-so tragic case, I developed a talent when I was too
young, too naive, to know it would plague me my whole teenage life.
Growing up, my world was filled with music. I started playing the violin when I was six,
followed by the piano at twelve. I grew up in a large Scandinavian family that often gathered
together. At each one, my grandma would sit at the piano and play old folk songs as her children
and grandchildren would all gather around and sing along. We would sing, and a select few
I was fascinated by the sound of yodeling. How they could crack their voices so
fast and with so much control, over and over, incorporating harmonies into their melodies,
flawlessly flowing from one riff to the next. It was so different than any other form of singing I
had ever heard. So I decided I would learn it. I would learn to yodel.
I downloaded a yodeling song, sat in my closet, and practiced flipping my voice. Yodelay-
*crack*-hee-*crack*. I tried to hide from all my older siblings, but there was no hiding the new
sounds I was making. Not only did they have to hear me screech away on the violin, but now I
was practicing yodeling, a sound that resembled a young boy in the trenches of puberty
attempting to sing a tune.
Finally, when I was probably twelve, I had done it. I had learned to
yodel. In the euphoria of my accomplishment, I remained blissfully unaware of the pandora’s box I had opened.
Every time someone came to the house to visit, a well-meaning family member would
have to mention my unique talent. “Did you know Annie could yodel?” followed by a “Annie, you
should show them.” This was the moment I always dreaded. The moment I just wanted to stick
my head in the sand and disappear.
“Great, now they too will see me as the awkward youngest child who obviously has no friends so she taught herself to yodel”.
It had seemed cool to me when I was ten, but not so much as a prepubescent teenager. Furthermore, as the youngest of four, I had become the showdog to all my sibling’s cool high school friends and their families.
to yodel for all her friends on the football team. Even when all my siblings went to college, this
talent still followed me. Somehow my boyfriend’s family learned I could yodel, and all was lost. I
was soon yodeling at every one of their family gatherings. I am not exaggerating about this.
Just the introduction to his immediate and extended family that I had always wanted.
“Meet my girlfriend, Helga the Songbird, want to hear her yodel?”
People think they know what yodeling sounds like. They think they are prepared, but I am
telling you they are not. The look of complete bewilderment and surprise has never failed to
grace the faces of those watching my timid performance, always followed by a display of delight
and laughter. Though it felt slightly painful and very humiliating, people always seemed
pleasantly surprised and impressed by my yodeling.
These many experiences of feeling like a carnival act may have felt mortifying in the
moment, but they have shaped me into the woman I am. I learned to embrace a unique part of
my heritage. I overcame my timidity and fear of standing out. I have grown to be much more
confident and secure in my individuality. But above all, I learned not to take myself too seriously.
Helga the Songbird reigns forevermore.