The Triumph Of Bubbles - The Book of Amazing Stories

The Triumph of Bubbles

When Belle Silverman was born with bubbles in her mouth, her immigrant mother gave her a nickname that lasted a lifetime. Yet life was anything but bubbly for the girl called Bubbles. Brooklyn neighbors exclaimed that her golden curls and precocious talent made her a Jewish Shirley Temple. Those compliments became a curse when her obsessive stage mom stole Bubbles’s childhood by dragging her to endless auditions for roles in radio, movies, and vaudeville. Mrs. Silverman was sure that her Shirley Temple look-alike was their ticket out of poverty. Repeated rejections at those auditions traumatized little Bubbles. So did the look of disappointment in her mother’s eyes.

When she was sixteen, her voice teacher said that she was tailor made for the opera. But nothing ever came easy for Bubbles. She spent ten frustrating years on the road trying to make it in second-tier operas. The New York City Opera turned her down seven times before they accepted her. When Bubbles finally snagged a starring role, critics panned her performances as uneven. Leading opera houses refused to let her appear on their stages. It was only after she went to Europe and won over the toughest opera fans in the world that critics begrudgingly recognized her magnificent voice.

Even when she became a star at the Met and Time magazine dubbed her America’s Queen of the Opera, her adoring public never knew that Bubbles was raising two children with disabilities. One of them was severely cognitively disabled. She spent a fortune building a sanctuary for her kids in Martha’s Vineyard. After they moved in, it burned to the ground. Then her husband collapsed with a stroke. She cared for him for eight years while raising two children with special needs and juggling a demanding career.

You might think that a lifetime of setbacks would make Belle Silverman from Crown Heights a sour woman. But the lady nicknamed Bubbles plowed through her troubles with infectious joy. Barbara Walters called her the happiest person on earth. After a Sixty Minutes interview, Mike Wallace said that she was the most impressive person he had ever met. When he asked her how she had overcome bitterness to be so bubbly, she replied, “I can’t control the circumstances of my life, but I can choose to be joyful.”

You may remember Belle Silverman by her stage name, Beverly Sills. When Belle died in 2007, a New York Times obituary proclaimed the Brooklyn-born coloratura soprano to be America’s most popular opera star since Enrico Caruso. But to family and friends, she will always remain Bubbles. Two years before her death, she summed up her challenges and triumphs to a Times reporter: “Man plans, and God laughs. I’ve never considered myself a happy woman. How could I be with all that’s happened to me? But I choose to be a cheerful woman.” When you face speed bumps on life’s road, it might help to recall this line from Bubbles:

Circumstances are often beyond your choice, but you can choose to be cheerful.

Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.

Proverbs 12:25

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