Unforgettable: Memories bind a musician and her mother

Patty Peterson’s mother was unforgettable.

Patty comes from what local press calls Minnesota’s First Family of Music. The Petersons comprised matriarch Jeanne Arland and siblings Linda, Billy, Ricky and Paul; nephew Jason Peterson De Laire; and cousins Tom and Russ—all performing musicians and singers. Patty’s dad, pianist Willie Peterson, died in 1969. Her Mom was, Patty says, “a brilliant jazz pianist and singer.” When Jeanne was widowed, Patty “became her pal.”

A popular jazz singer and radio host (Minneapolis Jazz88 FM), Patty performed often with her mother. “We kidded that we were the Jazz Judds,” Patty says. “Mother would say from stage: But we just didn’t have their money!”

Jeanne died in June, 2013. After, Patty and her family spent many hours going through Jeanne’s possessions. There were dozens of glitzy, glamorous pieces of costume jewelry that sparkled in the lights on stage and which Patty wanted to go to nieces and granddaughters. As Patty worked in her mother’s home, she listened to her mom’s jazz tapes. “I’d talk to her out loud, like she was in the room with me. I’d say, ‘Mother, your voice is so pure.’ Or ‘Wow! Listen to that lick you just played on the piano!'” (A lick is an arpeggio, or musical technique where notes in a chord are played in sequence. Yes, I had to look it up.)

Patty kept asking her mother for a sign. For months, she waited. Her dad had come to her in a vivid dream about 4 months after he died.

Her mom: nada.

One day, 9 months after Jeanne died, Patty returned to her mother’s home. She was sitting on the bedroom floor sorting jewelry when she noticed something under Jeanne’s vanity. Patty had gone through the room earlier. Whatever the object was, she says, “It wasn’t there before.” It turned out to be a child’s book, well worn, with the front and back cover missing. The first page was folded.

“As I opened it, I realized it was Zippy the Chimp, the first book I ever loved.” (The children’s book was based on the life of the real Zippy. Born in 1951, Zippy became one of the most famous performing chimps in that era. YouTube has a clip of Zippy on Ed Sullivan’s variety show.)

What was the connection with Patty?

Patty was born pigeon-toed. “I was so tiny I could walk beside Mom holding her hand, touching the sidewalk with my other hand. With my turned in feet, I guess I looked like Zippy the Chimp. Zippy became Mom’s nickname for me.”

In discovering that book, “Mom found a really inside way to let me know she was still there with me. It’s as though she said, ‘Oh, yeah. I’m here, Patty. I’m fine. I see what you’re doing for my house and for our family.'”

Patty opened the book and found her childish printing from years ago: “This is Patty’s book. I can read this book.” When she read those words, she “felt a rush so strong that I knew the message came from another place … from her. It touched my heart. No one else knew what that book meant to me.”

Patty used to host a talk show that included spiritual subjects. When clairvoyant author James Van Praagh was a guest, he recommended looking for a picture to appear unexpectedly when someone from another place wants to connect with us. For Patty, Zippy was that connection.

Mother of 4 adult sons and grandmother of 4 (5 in September), Patty is no stranger to miracles. Seven years ago, she survived a potentially deadly aortic dissection (a tear in the main blood vessel coming from her heart). Surgery to correct the problem was successful. Patty has become a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, Go Red for Women and the TAD Coalition.

Not long ago, Patty (a pal of mine from afar), was especially touched by something said to her. A woman attending a church service where Patty was singing commented on the  the extent to which Patty shares her time and talents. This stranger said something which behooves us all to remember:

“You really live your gift.”

A lesson she learned from her mother.

TO LEARN MORE about Patty’s music, visit her website.

(Have deceased loved ones reached out to you?  Thanks for sharing your stories.)

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