Little Rell Enters a Talent Show
So, here's a little known fact about me. I've not always been the outgoing, charismatic, social butterfly that many know and love. I was extremely shy as a kid.
I remember going to family reunions and sitting in the car for no less than an hour by myself until I mustered the courage to get out and sit right up next to my mother for another hour. I don't even think that anyone noticed because my older brother was outgoing enough for us both. He was popular, friendly, everyone liked him, and he could dance. That last part will become important as the story goes on. Now, that's not to say that I wasn't a whirlwind around people that I was already comfortable with. Around the age of 9 or 10, I was just extremely socially awkward in crowds.
That's why I don't know where my older brother got the idea of us signing up for a school talent show. It all sounded good in theory, but I don't think anyone was prepared for my "performance." Thank God no one in my family had a video camera.
In typical older sibling fashion, my brother took the lead in the planning of our act. We were going to sing one of the hottest songs of that time, "Color of Success" by Morris Day.
My brother choreographed a dazzling dance routine that we practiced frequently in front of parents, cousins, aunts, and grandparents. He was the front man, dancing around an invisible microphone stand, twisting and twirling. My part was to back-up dance and sing the chorus, which was a simple phrase, "color of success", to the beat of the song. I had one job.
I can say that I felt pretty good about this talent show thing. We listened to that album constantly, my brother danced to it non-stop, and our family had given more positive feedback than Poppa Joe, Katherine, Berry Gordy, and Diana Ross put together. We were ready. There we were, about to take the stage in the basement of St. Joseph Catholic Church for what was supposed to be the realest elementary school talent show act ever performed. Penny loafers with shiny new pennies, check. Freshly hot-combed hair, check. Here we go.
On stage, the music starts and my brother is On-It. He's dancing, spinning, even pop-locking, when I notice something disturbing: I haven't moved an inch. I can't move. And when the pinnacle moment comes for me to sing the chorus, I move just enough around my brother to quickly say, "colorofsuccess." Just that like that, fast, with no pauses in between words, and I ducked back behind my brother. He throws me a what-the-hell kind of look, but doesn't miss a beat in the routine. And that's how it went. Him performing and me peeking around him speed talking the chorus and slinking back into the shadows.
I should explain a little more about me not being shy around people I know. I was a "talker" in class, at home, just about every place where I knew people. No one, including me, had seen this side of me; the petrified in front of people side, and they LOVED it. The laughter that erupted from my family, friends, teachers, was deafening, and of course I experienced it all in slow motion. It was so surprising to people that when we got back to school on Monday, my teacher, Mrs. Jones (I'm saying her name the same way Jerry Seinfeld said "Hello Newman), laughed immediately upon seeing me and asked, "what happened to you on stage?"
Eventually, I lived down the shame of the talent show and went on to form a Prince cover band with my cousin and older brother called Champagne. I got the name from an Asti Spumante commercial. I was the only one who had an instrument (an acoustic guitar) so when creative differences arose, I kicked them out and went solo.
Needless to say, I've pretty much gotten over my shyness. Maybe I hide it much better now, either way I've not had a public performance as bad as my one and only talent show. Thank goodness for NOT having cell phones with video recorders, or else you'd be watching that debacle instead of this Morris Day video!
Little Rell's First Day of School
The first day of school is traumatic for most kids. Crying, clinging to parents, loss of bodily functions is all pretty common. My first day was a different kind of trauma. It revolved around a song.
I think I was a
normal kid. I watched cartoons, Sesame Street, age-appropriate movies, played
board games, colored, and sung songs. One song in particular wasn't on
my radar and I never thought about it until my first day of kindergarten.
I remember the
teachers being nice for the most part. Some kids were already rubbing me the
wrong way and I made a mental note of who...for later. Right before lunch we played this game where
the teachers would pick a song then a child to stand in front of everyone to
sing that song. I was a very shy kid. It took me a while to warm up to new
people and the temperature for me was still cold. All I could do was hope that
I got a song that I knew. The kindergarten was actually in a church basement so
I was making eye contact with every picture of a beautiful blue-eyed Jesus and
prayed that I knew the song chosen for me.
“And next we have
Lorrell singing I'm A Little Teapot!”
I didn’t move an
inch. Surely there must be another Lorrell in this class because I had never in
my life heard of that song. And I know what you’re doing. You’re humming the
tune to the song in your head right now, maybe even singing it. I know you are. But at 5 or 6 years
old could you sing it on queue? You probably could, but I couldn’t, so there you have it.
“Lorrell? It’s your
turn, sweetie!” said the very nice teacher. She actually had to firmly
grab my arm and nudge me toward the front before I moved. I looked at her with
eyes that screamed, I DON’T KNOW THE SONG!! But those words never came out, and
slowly I walked to the front.
That was the longest
walk I ever took. In my head I’m trying to frantically remember any song that
had anything to do with a teapot. I knew what a teapot was, I had a tea set at
home. Why didn’t I know the frigging song about a teapot? Teapot…teapot…nothing!
So there I stood, in
front of about a dozen pairs of eyes burning into my forehead. All I could do
at this point was sing. But sing what?
“Let’s help Lorrell
start,” said the teacher as she nervously looked at the teacher's aide. In my mind I thought, ya’ll
gotta do a lot more than help me start!
So the teacher and
the class started with “I’m a little teapot…” And that was it. That’s not enough! I thought. Again one of the teachers started, “I’m
a little teapot…” looking at me and motioning with her hands for me to continue.
I started breathing
heavy. My little hands were throbbing from me clenching them. My mouth was very
dry. So I did the only thing I could think of. I sang.
“I’m a little
teapot, teapot, teapot. I’m a little teapot, teapot, teapot.”
I could tell by the
look on everyone’s face that tragically, I guessed the wrong words. Smiles faded
away, kids looked at each other, I think I even heard glass breaking and someone gasp. The first teacher that called my name came up to the front, mercifully put her hand on my shoulder, and
said I could have a seat.
Looking back, that was my first walk of shame. Kids pointed and whispered,
moving out the way as not to catch whatever I had that could make me forget such
a common song. Everyone’s eyes followed me back to my little spot on the carpet
and the game continued. They never did finish that song...they couldn't even give me that.
As soon as I got
home I told my mother about my day and asked her to sing me the teapot song. Her reply was, "You don’t know that
song? Everyone knows that song!" Sometime during the same week some deeply disturbed soul set off firecrackers in all the cups and saucers of my teapot set. I didn't ask for another one.
My Brief Life as a Bully
I was the typical pain in the ass little sister. People gave me my way because I was the youngest and a girl and I expected this behavior from everybody. Charlie Brown single-handedly changed that expectation.
Not the Peanuts character, mind you, but a husky, sandy-haired, hazel-eyed demon of a boy who had ham hocks for fists. Charlie Brown, pronounced, Cha-lee, was a problem child before the first movie had even been written. He was in the 5th grade (I was in the 3rd grade) and had some learning challenges which I’m sure didn’t improve his mood. Charlie Brown, we always said his whole name, was a foot and a half taller than me and was larger than the average kid his age. He was generally an ok guy as long as you didn’t get on his bad side. I mean, sure you might suffer the occasional face muffing or rapid fire arm punch in the exact same spot, but those were almost signs of affection compared to what I got on a cool fall afternoon at recess.
The details are sketchy now, but I am sure that I started it. Innocent, sweet-faced, 9 yr old Little Rell wasn’t getting enough attention and somebody had to pay! I remember an argument ensued, my older and more sensible-minded brother tried to talk me out of it, but Little Rell wasn’t having it. At recess, on the side of the building out of the sight of nosy teachers, there was gonna be a fight. Never mind that I was a girl two years behind Charlie Brown, bullying was an equal opportunity occupation. Oh yes, there.was.gonna.be.a.fight!
Charlie Brown and I faced off in a square patch of grass. Hordes of elementary school kids gathered around like they were watching an illegal fight club match. I cracked my knuckles, cracked my neck, put up my dukes and proceeded to get my head rocked by Charlie Brown’s jab. Pop-pop-poppop! Over and over nose jabs until my over-sized glasses went flying. At least my big brother played the role of corner-man well. He picked up my glasses before they got trampled.
This mockery of a school yard fight probably only lasted a few minutes but after that, I was a born again champion of the people. I only used my powers for good because bullying had just earned me a beat down. Little Rell was now a reformed bully...and Charlie Brown went on to punch his teacher in the chest in class and eventually got expelled. But to me, his goods outweighed his evils and I'll eternally be thankful to Charlie Brown, wherever he is!