Saturday, May 2, 2015

Singing In School

In third grade, our class was chosen to sing a song for the whole school. Not in the auditorium, mind you, but over the intercom from the principal’s office. Remember how awful those things sounded back then? You could barely understand even the spoken word. The morning announcements were a series of harsh barks and a few almost-discernable words. And it was over that system that our lovely young voices were to be heard.  

After a rehearsal in our classroom, my teacher, Mrs. Nickerson, pulled me aside and told me I had a terrible voice and that it would be better for all considered if I didn’t sing. “You don’t want to ruin it for everyone, do you?” she asked me. I told her I didn’t. But I wasn’t sure. And I’m still not sure why it mattered so much to her that we sound good. It wasn’t for a competition or anything. Nothing was at stake. And even if it had been for competition, we were just children. So I thought about it for a while, then told my parents what happened, and asked for their advice. “You go ahead and sing if you want to,” they told me. I did want to. So I made up my mind to sing, and that was that. You can get over stuff quickly sometimes when you’re a kid.

So the day came, and we filed into the principal’s office. Just by my position in line, I ended up in the back corner. Mrs. Nickerson came over to me and said, “You’re far enough away from the microphone that we probably won’t hear you, so go ahead and sing.” And it was that moment that really cemented this whole thing in my memory. Had she just not said anything on the day... But what's done is done.

Third grade was the year I lost my blind respect for authority. There was more to it than this one incident, of course. But this was the beginning of it.

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