Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Proud Aunt

The blog Tina, Jackie, and I began years ago is taking off again, and I'm so happy about it! The title is Observations from the Knee-Deep South, and I have it linked on my blog list. Jackie just posted on it, and Tina has written several. Some of you have been there, checked it out, commented, and followed. Thanks!

I've known them for over 30 years when they were in high school speech and drama competitions with the National Forensics League, which I coached. Ha! I was an NFL coach! We all learned together and forged ahead for them to win trophies and awards. We bonded during those years and have remained friends. Our friendship has that comfort that comes from knowing each other so long and through so many experiences. A few years ago I mentioned that I was really young then and didn't realize it. Tina said, "We did!"

Tina won the first first-place state trophy for our newish central high school in poetry interpretation ("Tommy" by Rudyard Kipling in a great Cockney accent). She was valedictorian of her class and silver medalist. Her graduation speech was a poem. I wish she'd post it on the blog. After earning her degree in the honors program at UT, Tina was accepted to the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop for graduate school but got married instead and brought up two cool sons. We all have those crossroad decisions we make that lead to might-have-been and what-if thoughts. She's had her moments with those. When I retired, Tina replaced me with part of my schedule and in my classroom. I literally passed my podium on to her. She's been Teacher of the Year twice in the four years she's been teaching there. It is good to know that I left my job in more capable hands and that it would continue better than it was when I had it.

Jackie and I met when I was scouting play auditions for potential NFL members. As I sat in the back of the auditorium, I watched a young black gifted teenager get turned down for a role she did a better job with than others who were chosen. It was a comedy where couples were eventually together. The drama director isn't racist but probably didn't want to rock any community boats in the early 70's and had enough white students to choose from. After hearing who was selected, Jackie rushed up the aisle in disappointment fighting back tears. I followed her out and told her my name and who I was. I said that she probably didn't want to hear this now but if she were interested in speech and drama competitions to let me know because I'd love to have her in it. She said I was right and that she didn't want to hear it. Later on, though, she showed up at my room and asked about forensics.

Jackie (Jacqueline on the blog) went on to win awards for dramatic interpretation and solo acting. Her last one was as Antigone because she wanted to stretch herself. She was also vice president and then president of NFL, and I depended on her to write introductions for other competitors because she was that good. After a degree in psychology from Memphis State, a brief stint at Vanderbilt where she met her husband, and an MBA from Loyola, she had a career in writing software and teaching computer courses and was a professional dancer and is still a professional storyteller. Several years ago, Jackie went back to school to become a teacher and plans to move back to Tennessee in a few years. Their daughter is my goddaughter and will be going to Howard University this fall.

Middle Passage, her one-woman show Jackie wrote and performs, is incredible! I hope she brings it back here again. Read about it HERE. This article was written by another former Niffleonian (as we said) or my name would not have been in the article and really had no reason to be. I wish you could all see her performance! The first half features African drummers. Jackie performs African dances and tells stories from there. The second half has a church choir who sings spirituals, and Jackie tells slave stories she adapted as well as some original stories she wrote. The show is inspirational, thought-provoking, and wonderful. I cried both times because it is so moving.

Both of these amazing, talented women are my friends! How great is that? Now that I've introduced you, you can get to know them when you read the blog.


Tina said...

Wow, sounds like you have cool friends! When do I get to meet them? Just kidding! Thanks for the praise and the friendship.

frogponder said...

Is fun to *meet* everyone! :-)

Berry Blog said...

Oh Joy, I so love you...and you know why. We have had our troubles, but we so treasure our teaching and support each other in our victories and defeats.I love that you shared this.