Not Quite Pulitzer Material
I’m swimming in awards these past two weeks.
I’ve been nominated for Versatile Blogger and Liebster Blogger by
I could get really conceited (okay, I already AM really conceited). But I know these compliments are due to a group of fabulous bloggers out there who are a lot like me. We are all travelling on the same middle-aged journey (Tickets Are Nonrefundable), and we have become great friends.
A few months ago, when I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger award, I made light of it (Welcome To My Ponzi Scheme). Having run the math, it appears that it only takes five iterations of nominations before everyone in WordPress gets an award. Twice.
But, this time, I don’t want to be cynical. You know, it’s NICE that other writers like what I write. That’s WHY I write, after all.
Remember Valentine’s Day in grade school? You got a valentine from everybody in the class, because mothers make sure their kids are nice to everyone. But it sure felt good. (And when Curtis did not send me a card, I was heartbroken, even though I hated Curtis. My mother assured me, however, that Curtis was very poor, and his mother just couldn’t afford to buy thirty cards.)
Which is not the point at all. Going down memory lane can be a very meandering walk.
Here’s the path I meant to go down:
When I was a senior in high school, I entered an essay contest. I wanted to win this contest more than anything I wanted that year. (Except for wanting John H. ask me to the prom. John, it’s been forty-two years and my heart is still a little broken...)
The contest was the Voice Of Democracy. You had to write an essay on what democracy meant to you, and then record your entry as a three-minute speech.
I could write. I could write a three-hour speech for William Jennings Bryan. But speaking myself for three minutes is a different story. (Although I love to talk. Ask anyone. I mean ANYONE.) I just hate to hear myself. I won’t go as far as to say I have a speech impediment. I just have a little trouble with my Rs. When Gilda Radner played Barbara Walters as BaBa WaWa, I was confused. I don’t hear anything wrong in Barbara Walters’ speech. She sounds normal to me.
Several kids decided to enter, and we all went to a teacher’s house one night to practice. She was a new young teacher, full of enthusiasm who lived in a tiny attic apartment, decorated with a decidedly Greenwich Village flair. It just occurred to me how much my first apartment years later looked like this teacher’s place. I was at her house only once; but she made an impression I guess. (I’ll stop meandering soon.)
The next day we went to the local radio station and recorded our essays.
It was the Fall of 1968. I am an idealist to this day, and in 1968 I was a naive seventeen-year-old idealist. I preached for three minutes that Democracy meant not only the right, but the necessity to stand against your government if it is wrong. Democracy meant taking to the streets to stop an evil war.
Did I mention that the sponsor of this contest was the American Legion?
I thought I would win. I really did. I thought the veterans of the American Legion would be amazed by my argument and immediately vow to stop the war.
I didn’t win.
The winner in my school was a girl whose father was a high-ranking officer in the military. She went on to the finals in the state competition. My father was a purple-heart veteran, but I didn’t say so in my speech.
I was devastated by my loss. It had never occurred to me that my speech was not only offensive to the judges – it was just not very good. I’ve learned since that you can be as offensive as you want; the only crime in writing is poor writing.
As a senior, I was also on the Yearbook staff. I don’t remember exactly what I said to the student editor of the yearbook. Not much, I don’t think. But Dennis obviously saw my disappointment in losing the Voice of Democracy contest.
When Dennis took the picture of the winner of the contest, the photograph was terrible. Her eyes were closed. The teacher-advisor suggested that he take the picture again.
“I took a dozen shots,” Dennis said. “She closed her eyes in every shot. If I take it again, it will just be the same.”
I kind of knew what he meant. That girl was very blinky.
The teacher signed off on using the closed-eye picture. As she left the room, Dennis did the oddest thing. He winked at me.
Here’s the photo that Dennis took of me for the Yearbook:
Here’s the picture he took of the Voice of Democracy winner (in the same location, by the way):
Twenty-two years later, coincidentally, Dennis was the photographer at my wedding.
There is actually a point to this wandering story.
I wasn’t the best writer at seventeen. But I love to this day Dennis’ small act of loyalty.
I am still not the best writer I could be. But I love the loyalty of all my blogger friends. Thank You.
P.S. I can’t resist one final meandering. In the photo above, I was wearing YELLOW tights!