Get our newsletters

Chatterbox: The fat lady is singing


As the expression goes, “It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings.”

It means that whatever it may be isn’t over until it’s completely over.

Believing the roots of that expression, with its recently, very expanded usage, originated with either opera or baseball, I researched it to be sure. It’s not easily traced; most colloquial expressions aren’t.

The clearest progression I found was that it was based on the finale of a Wagner opera, “Der Ring des Niebelungen.” At the conclusion of the opera, a typically robust female sings an aria, nearly 20 minutes in length, about the end of the world of the Norse gods. As for the gods’ world, and the opera itself, neither was over until the fat lady sang.

The referential remark itself, however, was created by a football announcer, Ralph Carpenter, while narrating an event, “The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” It was later used in a newspaper account, contracted to “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings,” and popularized in ways various and numerous enough to merit their own column.

Today, it simply indicates the end. Now, for our holiday season, despite how long we hold onto our tinsel, the fat lady is singing.

In “Anne of Green Gables,” the teacher says, “Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it.” The same is true for each new start, especially each new year. Sure, at first we may assess our immediate situation and be unhappy for a hot minute but, then, the fresh new year will bring that fresh new start.

Many of us make resolutions for the new year, and we may or may not keep them. This year, I made one, which I may, or may not keep. The beauty of my resolution is that I don’t have to keep it. I can, but only if I want to. That’s because this resolution is less resolute and more solution. It’s about giving myself permission to choose a new path; it’s very liberating. The need to commit won’t present itself until next December anyway, so I have the whole year to decide and to just enjoy its possibility. This is the type of resolution anyone can love, right?

We can, each of us, do this and, I believe, we will find ourselves floating on a cloud of joyfulness at the freedom which such an option can hold.

Just to illustrate, I’ll share: I have, this year, finally, called a moratorium on my whole “Martha Stewart, hello, I wish I had stagehands” Christmas plan. It’s true that my personal tricks of the trade make it as fast, easy, and as much fun as possible. So, I may do, next year, every single thing I have done for over three decades at Christmas. Then again, I may choose to serve delivered food on paper plates with no decorations, save for one Christmas tree. It’s a win/win, whichever way I go, because I, now, don’t feel obligated to do anything. I am free to move about the cabin … I’ve done it. Ergo, for me, the fat lady has sung.

For many of us, and I am the absolute face on the billboard for this, the responsibilities we take on and the pressure we absorb for many things, especially at holiday time, is what we, ourselves, want to do for our loved ones. Most of our loved ones, whether we believe it or accept it, or not, usually, are happy just to be together and have some holiday fun. Garland, glitter and globes of glass shining around the room add much, and they really are great; they just aren’t the core of the joy.

My son said it best … something to the effect of my knowing that the holiday was all about my kids to me … but the fuss, the extra trees and the decorations were really only for me. The kids admired and appreciated it all but, to them, the holiday was just about being together. He made my heart go all warm and gooey. How wonderful. I always knew they wouldn’t mind the holiday without the hype but, now, I don’t either.

Sure, everybody loves all the fuss, whether we admit it or not. The china, the candles, all wonderful, but, in reality – superfluous.

So, this year, we took plenty of pictures; they will suffice should I choose to break up with Martha. Hmm, maybe next year I’ll hang the pictures of the decorations instead of the decorations.

… And, maybe I won’t.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.