Saturday, July 9, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 32: Starring in the school play my first year at West High School

I knew my instincts were right when the speech and drama teacher at West High, Miss Nelson, took a great liking to me and told me within a couple of months she had decided to cast me in the starring role in whatever play she did.  She was considering doing "I Remember Mama" which would have featured some good writing but the lead character was Mama, so I didn't know if I liked that. She let the drama students choose and naturally they picked a frothy high school romance in which I definitely felt less comfortable playing a typical popular high school girl.  But the great compensation was that Jack, the head cheer leader, another of Miss Nelson's favorites, played opposite me as well as the young man featured in the photo that appeared in the paper.
I had naturally already fallen in love with Jack, who was ten times more sophisticated than any of his young male peers, but this time I knew better than to let my heart get as involved.
Jack was a senior who had had time to get used to the idea of being a lost boy  for he had such charisma and appeal he was bound to have been pursued even as a child by both sexes, and something in him had obviously responded to his own.
He had a girlfriend with far less appeal than he had, but this was standard for a guy like him.  If he needed a cover she provided it.  When I was in college I ran into Jack in a gay bar.  He looked at me with indifference as though to say, 'so now you know.'
I thought I already knew, Jack, so I was cautious.  But he was it.  I knew I would not fall in love with anyone at West High any deeper.  He was a star. He knew it, and he extracted love as his just due.  Besides young guys like him always had such an air of suffering I could not resist them.  That all started with my dad.  Somebody was always going to have to watch over Jack so he would not commit suicide, too.
Miss Nelson, of course, loved Jack and always watched over him.
Great Grandma was gratified enough when her great granddaughter's photo appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune that she did not make a fuss when I had to stay after school to rehearse.  Miss Nelson always saw that I got home safely.  I was a star so early at West High school, I did not know what I could do that would top it, but Miss Nelson kept me busy both years entering speech and drama meets as far away as Ogden, 40 miles north.
I knew my guardian angels had led me to her.  She was a heavy set woman who found great fulfillment in taking her drama students under her wing.  To her I was a real find.  The drama teacher at Bear River High in Garland would never have discovered my talent he was so hung up on the popular girls.
I wished I could have told Aunt Neta that, but she was still hardly speaking to me.  Considering that she was a sewing teacher I thought she had done her best.  She did not know how I loved my Grandma King who had saved my life as a child by welcoming me into her home as a loved granddaughter.  Grandma King was not literary, far from it.  She and her daughter Neta had very similar interests. But she was my Grandma.  And she loved her son Clyde.  Maybe that was the difference.
I still thought to encourage Margie to live with Aunt Neta and make up for my abandonment which she took as some sort of put down.
I had to go to Salt Lake to fulfill my destiny. Miss Nelson was probably the best drama teacher I could have gotten in the city during that crucial time in my life.  She would make high school memorable for me.  She alone of all the teachers there singled me out and made me feel I had great possibilities of succeeding in the world of drama.  Neil was the only one who had recognized me on a deeper level in Garland, and he was too conflicted for me to be able to depend on him anymore than I could depend on Jack.


  1. I loved this post! HOORAY for Miss Nelson!

  2. that's so cool
    having your photo
    in the paper, Gerry!