Random Thoughts

The fourth grade play

... why do certain events get stuck in the memory bank?

by Ann Robbins Talbot

My fourth grade teacher at Lincoln School had written a health play and our class was to perform it for parents. In the forties mothers generally worked at home, so we could plan on an audience of one adult per classmate plus assorted younger siblings. A veritable crowd.

The casting for the play came first. My very best friend, Mary was tall and pencil thin. She was cast as the Banana in the play. I do not need to describe myself other than to say that I received the role of the Apple. Our teacher must have stayed up nights creating the perfect part for each child in her class.

Second came costumes. In those days we were in love with crepe paper. Crepe paper came in flat rolls about two feet wide of every possible color. For decorating a party it was wonderful. You could paste it, rip it, cut it, stretch it, ripple it, twist it – anything your brain could imagine. We discovered that it was very convenient to sew the heavy paper on the sewing machine. Each child in the class was to wear a long sleeveless tunic of white crepe paper. We had to call them "tunics" so the boys would not think they were wearing dresses! A group of mothers made them for us, my mother being one of the seamstresses. When the tunics were done, each of the cast members drew a huge fruit or vegetable to paste onto the front. I think we also had a Soap and a Toothbrush in the cast.

The final part of our production was the learning and rehearsing of lines. Some of us were born for the stage, memorizing quickly and emoting on cue. Others found this process to be excruciatingly painful. Content to hide behind a book most of the year, the shyer classmates actually had to walk across the front of the room with every eye upon them. It reduced several of them to tears until the lines were second nature. Eventually it sounded like each person was helping to tell the story of good health and hygiene.

The great day had come! Our mothers arrived to see our “show” and we ushered them to our own desks to be comfortable. Little sisters and brothers sat on laps, in aisles or on desktops. Some of our mothers, mine included, came in hats. I could not decide whether to be embarrassed or admiring, so I just ignored the fact. I was ready for lights and action!

The Apple did a good deal of the narration and I was up to the task. We got going at a great pace, patiently explaining to our own mothers how to eat properly and clean their teeth. Somehow I do not think we had the correct audience because they tended to laugh in the wrong places. We should have performed for the second graders. But we forged ahead.

And we were on our way to a stellar performance until the Orange looked down on the floor. Seeing liquid spreading her way, she moved forward. The Banana saw the same thing and moved backward. Soon all the healthy fruits and vegetables were breaking formation and squirming for a dry spot on our makeshift stage. The Prune had wet his pants.

March 7, 2008

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