I took speech in 8th grade. Not the kind you take when you need help with your expressive and receptive language, but the kind where you have to embarrass yourself in front of a bunch of other 8th graders.
We did a lot of performances and not really any speeches. Maybe that’s because our speech teacher was an actor of sorts. He liked to name drop and tell us who he’d most recently had lunch with. The only one I remember, or recognized was Sissy from Family Affair. That impressed me. In reality the class should have been called Drama.
Anyway. One of our assignments was to lip-sync song from a musical. I think the teacher said we could not use the Wizard of Oz, or I know I would have used a song from that musical. I remember going home and agonizing over it. The logical song would have been my favorite from Mary Poppins – The Perfect Nanny. I knew it by heart (and still do). However for some reason I promised a friend in class I’d let her use my album for that song.
Having eliminated the only two soundtrack albums I owned I was in a quandary until a friend of my mom came to the rescue and loaned me Oklahoma. I’d never seen the musical, but knew one song on this soundtrack – Oh What a Beautiful Morning. Sure, why not?
I played the song over and over again, reading the words from the record sleeve. I could silently belt it out as good as Gordon MacRae did in the movie. My mom helped me with my costume – a pair of her old straight-leg blue jeans, a plaid shirt and a bandanna around my neck. She even helped me fashion a lasso out of some rope we had left over from our laundry line.
I was excited, and knew I was going to do well. I sat in my regular seat and talked to Cindy who sat in front of me as the rest of the students seated themselves. When Bob S. sat down next to me I turned to him to ask what song he was performing. I didn’t need to ask. He was wearing a cowboy shirt, a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, a red bandanna and chaps. Chaps? Where did he get chaps?
“You can’t sing Oh What a Beautiful Morning!” I cried, “I’m singing that.” I don’t remember his reaction. I was already in tears. I do recall he tried to comfort me and offer me the use of his chaps.
The teacher was ok with having two Oh What a Beautiful Mornings, even though he’d earlier said we couldn’t lip-sync the same song as someone else. I think it was my hysterics. I was adamant, however. I’d do something else. Since we were not going to get through all performances that day, I had until we met again two days later to prepare for my new song.
I turned to Oklahoma again – The Surrey with the Fringe on Top? No – How could I sing about something when I had no idea what it was? Oklahoma? No. People Will Say We’re in Love? No I Can’t say No? Sure, why not.
I listened and practiced and practiced and learned the lyrics. Mom found me an old dress and a women’s old straw hat. I was ready.
I barely remember my time on stage except for realizing in the middle of the song that it was kind of odd that I, a shy, never been kissed, wallflower kind of a girl, was singing about not being able to say no to men.