When Dreams Come True
The Incredible Adventures of Gayle Nicholson
By Jeanine Matlow for Women’s Lifestyle Magazine, December 2006
No one should have to face abandonment and abuse, let alone a child. But Gayle Nicholson experienced both during what should have been her brightest years. Perhaps the only thing more astonishing than her tragic story is how she not only survived but thrived later in life.
At the age of eight, Nicholson watched her closest brother leave for school. Then her mother left, and her remaining three siblings were taken by her godmother. Nicholson, the only child who was her father’s blood, was left behind.
“My father was an alcoholic, very abusive in every manner,” Nicholson 38, explains. When they were evicted from their home, the little girl lost all of her friends and teachers. For the next two years, she lives with her father in a series of rented rooms, attending five different schools in one year.
The child hit rock bottom when her father purchased an office trailer as their home. There she slept on a metal desk and had no running water. TO make matters worse, her father used borrowed money to pay for liquor instead of food.
Years earlier, Nicholson’s brother had introduced her to the first Barry Manilow album. You might call her reaction to it “love at first sound”. So, when Columbia House advertised six records for a penny, Nicholson mailed away for every last Manilow album. During those miserable and horrifying two years, she says, Barry’s music became her escape.
“The music both soothed and inspired my soul,” Nicholson says. “For every question I had about life, every challenge I faced, there was a song that held an answer or eased me through my pain.”
One evening, her father brought her to a roller rink. “I took to the roll of wheels under my feet like a duck to water,” Nicholson recalls, Her father spoke to a young woman there who said her mother, who had taken in children before, could care for his daughter.
Nicholson realized Christmas had passed her by when she saw the unwrapped presents under their tree.
With her new foster family, Nicholson was given the stable and structured environment she so desperately craved. “Grace and Bud were supportive, loving and you knew exactly what to expect from them, she says. With the encouragement of family members who owned and worked at the rink, Nicholson reached levels of skating she never dreamed possible.
She is now writing her life story. “I’ve written as openly as possible about the abuse and neglect I endured, the joy and security I found living in foster care, and the redeeming synchronicity that found me through the music of Barry Manilow, ” she says. She hopes people will see a way they can become personally responsible for their own lives and never be victims of circumstance. “When we can really own everything that has ever happened to us, and everything that we have ever done, no matter how unflattering,” she says, “then we get access to our true power to make a real positive difference in the world.
As a Leadership Development Coach with Business Edge International, Nicholson is already making a difference in the lives of others. “It’s my job to hold a vision of my clients that is larger than they know themselves to be,” she says.
NIcholson is also the Co-Membership Director of Barryzona’s Southwest Magic. She says members of the Barry Manilow fan club range from warehouse workers to geneticists. “But the thing each and every one has in common, is that they’ve seen heartache, they know what is important in life and they would be there for each other in the blink of an eye if times got tough.”
Nicholson met Manilow once, at a record signing. “After three hours in line, I could barely form words,” she says. “I kept thinking he must think I’m a complete dork to have named my daughter Mandy.”
Ever since, she has tried to become someone Barry would want to meet. “I keep thinking that if I just keep my head down and continue doing the best work I can, eventually it will make an impression and who knows?” Nicholson ponders. “Maybe someday my phone will ring and it will be Barry Manilow calling to say I’ve done something he admires or respects. That would be Nirvana for me.
Until then, Nicholson continues to write her book and work on her Master’s Thesis in Metaphysical Science. She would like to write her dissertation on the potential healing power of Manilow’s music.