Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stage shock

“Good ol' Bobby Ezell"

Bob after receiving one of his million educational awards!

I manage to embarrass myself on average of twice a day. I might make it through 24 hours without messing up too badly, but I’ll double up the next day.

    My earliest memory of embarrassment was when Dad made me sing Big John in front of all the kinfolk on Grandma’s porch in Bristow, Oklahoma. I don’t know how many times I sang that song on the trip up to Oklahoma, but it was a bunch. On the first night of the massive family’s get-together, Daddy said, “Hey, Mark, sing ‘Big John’ for us.”

    I’ve told the story before, so you may know that it didn’t go well. I begged Dad not to make me sing, but it did no good. “You’ve been singing that stupid song for 500 miles, and you’re gonna sing it now.”  It was the fastest singing of lyrics since the “Modern Major General” from “Pirates of Penzance.”

    When I finished, I ran into the house and bawled. No idea why. Kids are just weird. Anyway, my Aunt Edna came in after a couple of minutes and gave me a big hug and 50 cents. She said it was for the good job I did on the song. From that day on, I became a professional singer. It was a short career The first and last time anyone ever paid me for singing.

    Few are living who witnessed that moment on Grandma’s porch. Even though it was my first memory of embarrassment, I’d sure like going back in time and revisiting it. I would ham it up big time. I’d act out “Big John.” I think Dad might even give me a hug.

    I told you all that to set the stage for my more recent embarrassing moment. It was during the play “Inherit the Wind” when I flubbed a line. Might’ve been a few people catch it because they had no script. They may have thought it part of the dialog for my character to ask another actor, “What am I trying to say, here?”

The important thing is, I lived through the experience and no one yelled at me. I did enough of that myself. I’ve dreamed of stuff like that happening, only I never recover. In my dreams, I’m on stage with no idea what any of my lines are. I don’t remember rehearsals or even agreeing to do the play. Dreams can really mess you up.

Fortunately, the one lapse at the Owens Theatre was the worst of it. It scared the willies out of me and made me feel terrible, but, like I said, I survived. After the curtain call, the cast formed a line to go out the side door to greet our audience. Before I made it to the exit, up stepped Aunt Edna. Only it wasn’t her, ‘cause she’s dead. Taking Aunt Edna’s role this night was my dear teaching buddy, Bobby Ezell. I hadn’t seen him in ages, but out of the blue he chose that particular night to show up.

And, why is that important? I’ve been blessed in knowing two people with calming spirits. Kay’s Dad, whom I called Uncle Ray, and my ol’ friend Bobby Ezell. Just being in Bob’s presence will put you at ease. If I’m near the guy I just instantly sense that everything is as it should be. He doesn’t even have to say anything. There’s just something about him that directs me to peace and calm. Just like Uncle Ray.

I remember at Oak Ridge High School when I had a bad experience at a parent conference. It was one of two times I ever told a parent what I actually thought was wrong with their child. I was an idiot. The counselor and principal were not pleased with my attitude, so I left the office feeling really upset about people, life and teaching.

As I made my way back to my classroom, I passed Bobby Ezell’s room and saw a poster that read “Don’t take yourself so serious.” As tense and angry as I was, I instantly took an exaggerated emotional leap the other way.

The sense of calm was due partly to the words on the poster, but mostly to the fact that Bobby Ezell had posted it. It’s like the peacemaker himself was saying the words.

And, on that night at the Owens Theatre in Conroe, there was Bobby hugging me and congratulating me. “But, I really messed up with—“ He completely ignored everything I tried to tell him. I was once again in the presence of peace. Sure I was still embarrassed, but things are better now. ‘

The fact that friends and those with caring hearts end up in certain places at particular times is not by chance. That’s my belief. Uncle Ray always seemed to be around when I needed him most. Aunt Edna had the face of love that evening in Bristow.

And, Bobby Ezell? Well, he showed up as if summoned to help an old friend. And, it wasn’t his first time… hopefully not his last. 


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