It’s Where You’re Going That Counts



            Adeline sat in her burgundy recliner with a glass of wine in hand. A slow jazz record played from the old record player in the corner and Frank Sinatra‘s voice floated on the air to her ears. She set the glass down on the table beside her and closed her eyes with a sigh.

            The song changed to The Best Is Yet To Come and Adeline sang along softly until her voiced cracked and she pursed her lips in frustration. She used to have such a beautiful, strong voice; one that could fill an entire room and beyond. After the accident she had never been able to finish a song and was forced to retire.

            She got up from her chair and walked slowly to the kitchen to refill her glass. Her doctor had told her to stop drinking because of her health issues, but at this point in her life she didn’t care. As she was pouring the wine she looked up and her eyes roamed over the number of pictures on the mantle above the buffet in the dining room. Her gaze stopped on one that showed her standing on stage in front of a microphone. She wasn’t singing, instead she was laughing. She remembered that day. It was one of her earlier concerts in a small diner in Manhattan. She smiled in remembrance of that day, that year she had risen to stardom in a matter of months.

45 years earlier. . .


Adeline walked through the back door into the tiny kitchen where her mother was preparing supper.

“Adeline, would ya get the cornbread outta the oven for me?” Camille asked.

“Yes mama.” Adeline hung her coat up and grabbed an oven mit. As she lifted the cornbread out of the oven, Bella came charging into the kitchen, squealing and giggling, with Franklin right behind her, a funny looking puppet on his hand. Bella stumbled into the back of Adeline’s legs and almost made her drop the pan of cornbread. Franklin ran into Bella, stumbled backward, and toppled into a chair, knocking it and himself over.

Adeline was able to get the cornbread safely onto the counter and Camille stood with her hands on her hips, looking down at her rambunctious children. Eloise, the third child, came to the kitchen and stood in the doorway, wondering what all the commotion was about.

The startled and timid look on both of Adeline’s younger siblings faces caused her to burst out laughing. Then their mother joined and soon all five of them were laughing.

Camille started setting the table as Jedediah walked through the back door.

“What’s all this commotion about?” he asked with a smile.

Bella jumped into his arms and told him about the little collision that had just taken place.

“Well, thank heavens Adeline was able to save the cornbread,” he chuckled, then set Bella down.

He slipped out of his coat and hung it up, placing his hat over the same coat hanger.             “Honey, take a look at this.” He plopped a New York Times newspaper on the table and pointed to the large picture of men lifting the American flag printed on the front page. Underneath the larger headline “Castro Heads Cuba’s Armed Forces; Regime Is Sworn In” was “Alaska Becomes the 49th state“(On).

“‘President Eisenhower signed the document of proclamation at the long table at which he meets his cabinet’…” Camille mumbled as she read. “‘…and signed an executive order setting a new design of fourth-nine stars for the official flag of the United States.'”(On).

“So now I have to memorize another state?” Franklin asked and his parents and Adeline chuckled.

Soon they took their places and indulged in a hearty supper. There was a small squabble among the younger children which involved kicking feet under the table, but Adeline got them to settle down and dinner passed with amiable silence.

“Mama, Missus Witacre was talkin’ to me ’bout how I could get a gig singing at a little diner she likes to go to. She thinks I could do it,” Adeline mentioned as she helped her mother clear the dishes.

“Oh, honey. You know I want you to be able to live your dream, but we need all the money we can get and we just can’t afford to take a chance with a ‘gig’.”

“But, mama, I’m a good singer.”

“Yes I know, but I also don’t like the idea of you singin’ in a diner filled with alcoholics and smokers. I’m sorry honey, but now’s not a good time.”

Adeline nodded slowly.

“Alright, time for bed,” Camille called once she and Adeline had finished the dishes.

There was a collective groan among the smaller three as Camille herded them into the smaller bedroom. Adeline followed.

It took a while to get everyone ready for bed; Franklin kept attacking his sisters and tickling them and Adeline had to drag him off of them. Finally they all settled down into the bed and Camille placed a kiss on each forehead.

Camille left the room and Adeline crawled into the bed, almost laying on the very edge. Her siblings soon fell asleep and she drifted off to the sound of their deep, even breathing.



“Yes Adeline?” Mrs. Brown asked as Adeline returned Clark to his mothers arms.

“Would you mind if I watch the Grammys here at your house?”

“Well, I was already planning on having some friends over to watch it, since it is the first one, but it’s alright if you stay.”

Adeline grinned. “Thank you ma’am.”

She rode the bus home brimming with excitement. When she arrived she almost shouted her good fortune.

A week later she was sitting in a chair at the back of the living room of the Browns where several of their neighborhood friends had gathered in front of the small screen TV.

Adeline watched in ecstasy as her idol, Ella Fitzgerald, walked up on stage to accept the award, wearing a dazzling blue dress that trailed on the ground behind her. It was no wonder she had won, she was so talented that “she could have sung the telephone book and made it swing” (Adams). Adeline dreamed of one day being on stage, performing in front of adoring fans, but as the show ended she couldn’t help thinking of the kind of life she would have to return to. There was no glamor, just poverty and work.


Adeline hurried down the street to the bus stop. As she rounded the corner she watched in exasperation as the last bus pulled away from the curb. She stopped and sighed in frustration. She would have to walk to the next bus station five blocks away. There was always a late bus for people who couldn’t catch this one. Hopefully she wouldn’t miss that one too.

The street was nearly empty that evening. As she walked, she couldn’t help thinking about Ella and being on stage, performing in front of thousands of people. One of her favorite quotes, and one that always gave her hope, floated to the surface of her memory and she said aloud, “‘It isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts,'”(Fitzgerald) as she passed by a diner and heard a husky voice float through the open doorway, effortlessly singing Mack the Knife, one of her favorite jazz songs released only three years earlier.

She stopped to listen, then ventured inside and stood by the door. As the song ended she remembered that she had to hurry to catch the bus, but then a man went up on stage and approached the mic.

“Thank you Lilly. That was wonderful. Well, ladies and gents, it’s open mic night. I’m sure there’s plenty of talented singers out there in the audience today.”

Adeline’s breath caught in her throat. Could this be her chance? She’d never been able to sing in front of people other than her family before.

She stood by the door, frozen with indecision. No one went up to the mic and the man stood there with an expectant smile.

Suddenly Adeline found herself walking to the front of the room and up onto the stage.

“Hi, miss. What’s your name?” the man asked.

“Adeline,” she heard herself say.

“Alright Adeline, what are you going to sing for us tonight?”

“The Lady is a Tramp.” It was the first song that came to her mind.

“One of my favorites. Well, the time is yours,” he said and walked off stage.

Adeline stared into the attentive audience and felt fear creep from her heart to the very tips of her fingers and toes.

Slowly she opened her mouth and the tune flowed from her lips in a cascade of clear, crisp notes. The more she sang, the more she felt comfortable on stage, finishing off the song with a clean and strong G sharp. Before she had even finished the note, several people in the audience rose to their feet. Adeline beamed. It was her first performance and she was receiving a standing ovation. She felt her cheeks flush as she walked off stage. As she walked to the door several people placed bills and coins in her hands.

She left the diner, staring down at the money in her hands with disbelief and excitement.

Then she realized that she had probably missed the bus and had no way to get home and the excitement that had filled her just seconds before now disappeared. She stared down the darkening street and felt the pit of her stomach fill with angst.


She turned at the sound of her name and saw an elderly white woman hurrying toward her.

“Yes ma’am?”

“Adeline, that was beautiful. You have such an amazing talent. Was that the first time you’ve been on stage?”


“Well, you were magnificent. Let me take you home, I want to talk to you.”

Adeline found herself being led to a sleek, white, 1956 Ford Thunderbird and getting in the passenger seat.

“Excuse me but, who are you?” Adeline asked as the lady got into the drivers seat.

“Oh, how rude of me. I’m Ella Rose Burns.”

“Wait, Ella Burns? I’ve heard you sing, you’re amazing!”

“Well, thank you. Hearing and seeing you up there reminded of my glory days and I have so much I want to discuss with you.” Ella said as she started the engine. “Mostly about how we’re going to get you started on your way to success.”

4 years later

            Adeline walked onto the stage. Her golden dress shimmered in the spotlight and she felt the heat rise to her cheeks as a rush of adrenaline filled her. Another woman joined her on stage in a bright red gown.

            The announcer held the microphone on its stand and faced the audience with a large grin.

            “Ladies and gentleman! It is my pleasure to introduce: Miss Adeline Jackson and Ella Fitzgerald!”


The End


Works Cited

Adams, Simon. Jazz. Watson-Guptill Publications. 1999. Print. 1 April 2016

“Ella Fitzgerald Biography.” Editors. The A&E Television Network, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2016

On This Day. “The New York Times.”, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2016


Collins, Willie. “Savoy Ballroom.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Detroit: Gale, 2015. Student Resources in Context. Web. 2 Mar. 2016.

“Ella Fitzgerald, One of the Greatest Singers of all.” Telegraph

Reporters. 24 Feb. 2016. Web.

“Ella Fitzgerald.” DISCovering Biography. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context. Web. 2 Mar. 2016.

Ronk, Liz. “Lights Out New York, The 1959 Blackout.” Time Inc. 3 Nov. 2012

The People History, “The Year 1959 From The People History.” 2004. Web. 29 Mar. 2016