I was in a daze over what had just happened. It still hadn’t quite sunk in. Looking straight ahead, I slowly walked down the pier and barely noticed that the sun was shining and gentle breezes were creating a perfect September day for all the tourists who were wandering through the shops and restaurants on the Monterey Wharf. The laughter of children and cawing of the seagulls hardly penetrated my consciousness. My brain was still too busy processing the fact that after years of waiting and hoping, I was finally on the road to fulfilling my goal of becoming a working actress; it was going to happen.
As I neared the parking lot, my steps quickened and I allowed myself to believe the miracle; I was going to be in a movie with Clint Eastwood. Yes! He wanted me! Yes! I ran to my car so I could hurry home and tell somebody, anybody, the incredible news. My dream was actually coming true; a dream I had had since grade school when it seemed completely beyond the reach of a little girl from Norway who had parents who believed that what meant the world to me was a mortal sin. I could exhale. Finally.
It was a terrifying moment. Seven years old and still learning English, I was seated in the first row right under the teacher’s nose as she introduced herself to the class. I looked up at her and strained to understand what she was saying. She wrote something on the blackboard that I couldn’t read because I was extremely near-sighted and could only see clearly about six inches in front of me. No one knew this because I had never had an eye test so the glasses I so desperately needed were still years away.
Unfortunately, before escorting me to the classroom, the principal had not shown me to the little girls’ room – an oversight that now threatened to become a tragic mistake. I felt the pressure building as the teacher droned on and on in a language that was nothing like my native Norwegian. Even if I hadn’t felt strangled by timidity, I did not know the correct language or proper protocol to enable my escape from this room in order to find relief, and then, where to go after that?! Meanwhile, do I raise my hand? Then what? I wouldn’t know how to put the words together to make the request. There had to be another way. Maybe I can hold it until the class is over. But how long is that? Thoughts jumbled around my head at the speed of light, some in Norwegian and some in English, and as I procrastinated, the pressure grew. The outcome was inevitable and I began to weep. There was no way out for me. The pressure became unbearable, the spigot turned on and overflowed – more liquid than I knew I had inside me. It seemed to flow endlessly as my tears joined the lake forming on the floor. The teacher looked first at my face and then underneath my desk and registered surprise and pity. The other kids in class followed her gaze and giggles turned to laughter as the teacher reprimanded them. But her stern warnings only made their howls louder until they swept over me in a tidal wave of humiliation.
That was my first live appearance and even though it was a boffo performance and garnered mega laughs, I cried all the way through it.
The next year my English had improved considerably. I was a voracious reader and loved poems and fairy tales, so when we received the assignment to pick our favorite poem, memorize it and recite it in front of the class the next week, I already knew which one I would choose. Alone in my room, I memorized and rehearsed until I felt ready to share it with the class. The big day came and I listened to the other kids recite their poems and was appalled. Their delivery was flat and monotone, interspersed with face-rubbing, nose-picking, the girls lifting up their dresses and showing their underpants, staring out the window and in general having no connection with the material whatsoever. And this was their own language they were mutilating!
My turn came and I walked to the front of the class and faced the 25 kids staring at me, many of whom who had laughed at me the year before and probably would remember me for my shame the rest of their lives. But all fear and shyness fell away as I started to recite my poem with all the emotion in my young, tender heart – “I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vale and hills, when all at once I saw a cloud, a host of golden daffodils. Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze...” I finished my poem to a hushed classroom. The other kids actually looked at me with awe and admiration. My teacher had tears in her eyes. “Yes,” she said, “yes, that is how it is done.” She sniffed a little then pulled herself together, showered me with more compliments and told me that I was to go around to the other classes and recite it for them.
I was a hit! And I was taking my show on the road! I was so elated basking in all this glory if I had known there was such a thing as an Oscar I would have started composing my acceptance speech then and there.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish