How I Ruined A Halloween Play

There are certain moments in our life that define us. Whether it is an act from another person or an event which forces us to rise or fall to an occasion, there is no doubt these moments shape the way we are, how we view the world and how the world views us. A particular defining moment happened to me way back on an October evening in the year 1985. I was in the first grade and even though most of that year is a clouded-jumbled mess, I remember this evening vividly clear. The annual Mt. Bethel Halloween Play.

From kindergarten to fifth grade, every class participated in this play which took place at 7:30pm, some weekday evening in October. The whole cafeteria/auditorium was decorated to the nines with hay bales, overstuffed scarecrows, pumpkins and what seemed like hundreds of the iconic Beistle Halloween decorations. It was absolute heaven and for the couple of weeks leading up to this performance, we got to eat square pizza at lunch in a literal Halloween wonderland proving yet again, the 1980’s was the decade to be six.

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As the play drew closer, each classroom practiced their song or skit or whatever during music class. We had one music teacher who was responsible for the whole Halloween play and looking back, that would be like training twenty dogs to bark “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while at the same time worrying about one of them shitting. I have a lot of respect for the patience and organization of that woman.

The younger kids had a simple song to learn while the third grade and above incorporated instruments like bells, a piano and the dreaded recorder. Goddamn, I hated the recorder. No kid in the history of anywhere was decent at the recorder. And when you have thirty-five kids blindly blowing in those things, it’s like listening to Celine Dion seven octaves higher and backwards  with her hand in a blender.

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Lucky for me at that time, I was only in the first grade. Our class had just one song to perform for the night but this wasn’t just an ordinary Halloween tune about spooks or lame pumpkins. No sir, this had a hidden surprise at the end and to a first grader, little surprises where never taken lightly. In fact, it captivated the minds of me and my little group of buddies.

The song is “Stirring Our Brew” and to my surprise, it’s still a relevant children’s song. The melancholy tune has three parts which goes:

Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew

wooo wooo

Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew

Tip-Toe Tip-Toe….

This all builds to a climactic end when we slowly turn backwards then spring out screaming “BOO!”. That was the part we could not wait for. In fact, my cohorts and I wanted to secretly take it a step further with arm motions and an improvised “BOO”. It was the one chance we had to shine and mediocrity would just not do. In our little minds we absolutely thought this would put terror in the hearts of our peers and parents.

If you are curios how the song goes, click here. This kid does it justice.

The day finally arrived for the Halloween Play. We all wore the costumes to school that we would wear that night. I guess a dress rehearsal of some sort. It’s an unwritten rule that no teacher ever wants to put on a play and leave a kid to his or her creative accord without giving a nod of approval first. Once the lights go down, their butts are in the kids hands.

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I was a hobo. See, if I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to be or the folks wouldn’t buy me a $40 oversized latex mask, I went as a hobo. It was part laziness, part an opportunity for my Mom to put blush on my cheeks and nose. Later in life I learned she dressed me as an alcoholic, homeless man with blown out capillaries on his face but back then, I was closer to a clown than a guy who cleans windshields with newspapers. I think there were at least five hobos that year.

Another standout memory from those autumn plays was the fact we were at school during the nighttime. That was almost taboo to me. It was crazy to see my friends in a school setting past 2:15. The windows that were always so bright were now darkened by night and in some weird way I felt this was like seeing your teacher in her bathrobe. The school felt vulnerable and there was black and white difference with everything. As if there was an absolute difference between my desk during the day and at night. Is any of this making any sense? It’s okay to say no.

Back to the play. We all gathered in the hall outside the auditorium/cafeteria as the school principal, Dr. Butts (I know), thanked the parents for coming and praised the staff for putting together such a great play. My parents were in the packed crowd and I was excited to give them the scare of a lifetime. My buddies and I had agreed to take this climactic “BOO” to the next level. Some bragged how high they were going to jump, others mimicked their clawed fingers and snarled faces. I, myself, had a spin on the “BOO” adding extra parts. This was jump-in-place excitement.

The retarded kindergarteners were finally finished and Mrs. Hudson rose us from the Indian-style seating position and we were shuffled onto the three leveled stage. I remember vividly the enormous crowd with flashing cameras. It was a sight to be taken aback by but before I knew it we on the stage, me dead-center. The piano started up and with over exaggerating mouth movements, Mrs. Hudson began the chorus.

Stirring and stirring and stirring our brewwwww

WOOOOO-OOOO WOOOO-OOOO…

The excitement was almost more than this kid could bear. Did they know what was coming? How scared will the audience be? Do you think someone will have an accident and have to throw out their underwear like Ms. Taffle made someone do the first day? The possibilities were endless and the cross of anticipation was getting to be too much to bear.

The distraction of my excitement would be my undoing, however. You see, while my mind was busy imagining shrieks of horror from the audience, I lost where we were in the song. I was a whole stanza ahead.

While the second part was halfway through and the kids were still stirring their brew, I slowly began to turn backwards, completely missing the fact the entire first grade was still looking ahead. I curled my fingers and raised my lip over my teeth, making the most intimidating six-year-old face a person could ever lay eyes on and waited to the last “Tip Toe Tip Toe..

What I thought to be that said last “Tip Toe” was the cue to spring around in the most violent fashion imaginable and yell at the top of my voice “BOOO!”. But I didn’t just yell “boo”, as you remember I improvised the startling “boo” sounding more like “BOOOYOOODLELOOPIELOOPIE WOOOBOOP!”.

The piano kept playing but the class stopped and every six-year-old pair of eyes were on me. Also, every audience member’s.

Mrs. Hudson made a face like this:

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And in that single moment I was frozen in time, making monster fingers at an audience who were both confused and humored. I collapsed into my peers, completely mortified. They didn’t even finish the song!  We were walked off the stage to a lukewarm applause and laughing adults.

I remember that being the first time I experienced what it is like to truly blow it. Almost everything after that is a blur except when we were allowed to find our parents. I was greeted by my Dad who was over the top with how praise totting how great I was. It was the final straw and I busted out in tears. A six-year-old with running hobo makeup. Leave it to Dad to solve and cause all problems in a young kids life.

Life moved on, of course. The next week Jeremy Pricket pissed his pants when the fire department came to visit doing disorientation practice by spinning us around and having us crawl to the fire escape. That will always take the heat off of any faux pas. Beyond those two district memories, I don’t remember much of the first grade. I know I passed.

So, while this may have read a little depressing, it really wasn’t. Even today, Dad will still tease that timing is everything. We live through these funny moments that do shape us, even if they seem silly or trivial to others. It’s been thirty years since that funny night and I still remember it so vividly and worst yet, that annoying song, “Stirring Our Brew”.

BOO!

Perspective And Inspiration

I don’t know how it happens but every so often in life I stray off the path and get a little lost. I lose the big picture  and the priority of people who should mean the most. I basically lose my map on where to go from here.

Sure there are my own theories for these times of discombobulation but one has to ask, why? Am I running toward something or running away? What are my true fears in life; failing or being alone? Is there really something more to all this?

I guess I am just reaching for perspective and inspiration.

I sent this poem to a dear friend of mine. These immortal words were written by the ALS warrior, Jon Blais.  I keep this poem in my wallet and read it whenever I need to center my thoughts.

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living,
I want to know what you paid for.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are,
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
For your dreams,
For the adventure of being a live.

I want to know if you can live with failure,
Yours and mine,
And still shout at the edges of a lake, river or mountain,
Yes, I am a warrior.

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have,
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair,
Warry and bruised to the bone,
To do what needs to be done for someone you love,

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
And truly like the company you keep
In the empty moments of your life
And remember me,
Your friend.”

It never ceases to amaze me how people confuse kindness and love for weakness. I guess nice guys do finish last but I didn’t know we were racing. George, you said it best.

“What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other.

-George Eliot

calvin-n-hobbes-733953 You need to be with people who get you. To be able to accept someone through faults, imperfections and quirky little peccadilloes with no thoughts of selfish gains is what life should be about. It’s tough to put your honest self out there and minuscule imperfections weigh heavy on people you care about. That’s a great sign to pack the car and head for better abodes. Life is too short for that.

neda-iran-videoSee? Life is short and every time you think it’s hard or dull remember, there are people who see it end every single second of the day. I saw this video the other day and it brought me right back to Bosnia and other war experiences I have had. These images change you and they should. Good people in your life understand that and are sensitive to it. These images should invoke passion about ending violence or at least touch something in you other that chalking it up to a buzz-kill. Be with those who know and care where you have been. RIP Neda.

I guess this post was a little more self absorbed than I wanted it to be. There are times I believe we all stray and need to realign in both body and mind. I do believe that happiness is a choice but man, it’s choice that hides in the most odd places. Judas Priest said you don’t have to be old to be wise. I believe that and strive for it each day. Even on days when I need a nudge from the Blazeman.

This is how I choose to live my life.

  • Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely.
  • True strength is hard to quantify. It is invisible physically but it shows when it counts and everyone will see it.
  • Ask for a shoulder and don’t hold back on giving one.
  • Honesty is never regrettable. It is when people love you for someone who you are not. Be you. God made you and last time I checked He was perfect… or something like that.
  • Tell people you love them. And do it often.
  • Don’t dwell on what should have been, concentrate on what can be.
  • Apathy sucks. Be passionate because it inspires.
  • Run like you are not planning a return trip. Always look ahead.
  • Don’t use those around you for gain unless you can give it back to them.
  • Compassion is why we are alive. Truly, it is the only reason we are breathing right this very minute. So don’t hold back on giving it.
  • Complacency, rejection and even major hurts happen. Don’t let it harden you and don’t let it weaken you. This too shall pass.
  • Never drink milk before or after an intense cardio session. They lied. It does a body no good.
  • Hold out your hand if you need to. Someone will grab it. I believe in that.
  • Smile at people.
  • It is true that there are few people that have your best interest in mind. That’s no reason to be a dick.
  • Never be ashamed of being you and don’t feel sorry for yourself. Just try to do better each day.
  • Call your parents. And if you can not, pray to them. They love you no matter where they are.
  • Admit to being wrong and never hold back an apology.
  • Share.

Ok, that was a preachy list. But I felt I needed to write that. Life is a series of choices. Those are mine. Love ya.

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