The Emmy Awards were given out on Sunday night. I watched all of it including the hours of pre-show speculation about dresses, jewels and who would win. The red carpet was filled with the beautiful people and their assistants and escorts and of course, the TV personalities hoping for interviews. I kept thinking how beautiful the clothes were and the smiles and the jewels and I wondered, where is my Emmy? Where is my Oscar and my Tony? And what the heck am I doing here just watching? And why do these two always take my chair when I get up?
I grew up in a little town on Lake Superior. Ashland isn’t exactly a magnet for TV or movies, but we had a nice stage at the high school and Northland College and in the old Dodd Gym.
Growing up, I wanted to be famous, I wanted to be an actress and practiced accepting my Oscar and Emmy and Tony many times. At night after my sister Mary would go out on a date, I would go to her room and put on a pair of my Mom’s elbow length gloves, and stand in front of the full length mirror. I would hold up a hair brush which was my Oscar, and wipe imaginary tears from the corner of my eyes.
In my sister’s robe, which was way too long for me, I would sweep my imaginary ruffled train of my fancy dress around and then do a very deep curtsy. I would be so choked up that I would only thank a few people and then dissolve in imaginary tears and curtsy again before leaving the stage, clutching my trophy and waving to the standing admirers who were cheering for me. It was very fulfilling and exhausting to be admired so much for my hard work as an actress. I was so humble. Not.
In the winter, when it was way below zero outside, my sister Clare and I put on many performances upstairs when we were little kids. We had a couple of record albums that we used one was an album of “Cinderella”. It wasn’t the musical version, but we each pretended we were different parts and we would use a broom to sweep with and the broom was also Prince Charming when we had to dance with him.
There were hardwood floors upstairs and a big open hallway that was kind of round and we used that space for our many productions. We used slips on our heads for wedding veils and fancy hats. We used robes and old dresses for costumes and occasionally, OK we always used up our Mom’s and older sister Mary’s make-up.
We would put Mom’s Lady Esther loose powder on our faces and then get blue eye shadow and red lipstick from Mary’s room and really go to town. We looked awful, but when you're little, you think you look very grown up and irresistible. I’m kind of amazed we didn’t get in a lot of trouble for doing that to their makeup. It was a pretty regular occurrence.
The other production we put on was a story album about a mermaid. It was not the Disney “Little Mermaid”, but it was a cute story and we alternated between the two all the time. Our days were filled with dancing and singing and sliding on the hardwood floors in our socks and dancing with brooms who were our handsome princes.
I seem to remember that I was kind of bossing Clare around a lot during our productions, but that’s probably because I’m 2 whole years older and therefore felt like I was the boss. Poor Clare.
As we got older we took up singing more and more. We sang along to Mary’s Beatles albums on almost a daily basis. At night when we were supposed to be sleeping, we would lay in our bunk beds at night singing Beatles songs at the top of our lungs. Can you imagine a couple of kids probably aged 7 and 5 singing “Day Tripper” at the top of their lungs?
Obviously we didn’t know what the song meant back then and apparently neither did our parents. That’s probably a good thing. We also really liked to sing was “Hard Days Night”. I loved that song. And after all, we were in grade school, we understood the pressures of life, at least we thought we did.
Perhaps the greatest production of all time, was when we put on “Sleeping Beauty”. There was a whole bunch of kids, us included putting it on in my grandparents backyard, right across the street from our house. The girl that played Sleeping Beauty lived a couple of blocks from us, I wish I could remember her name.
There was a college age couple living in the house next door to my Gramma and Grampa's house and the husband was really cute. He always said hi to us and smiled and waved. So when it came time for someone to kiss Sleeping Beauty, we went over to their house and explained our predicament and that we needed a handsome prince to kiss Sleeping Beauty or she would sleep forever.
This guy and his wife were such good people. He said of course he would help, so we went to the backyard and he came over and kissed the little girl on her forehead and she magically awoke and we all cheered. We all thanked him a lot and then we all wished we had been Sleeping Beauty.
Later on in the school year, his wife asked us if we would mind talking to her about school because she was doing a project for college about elementary schools and we all participated. It was really fun and we kind of felt important that we were helping a someone in college. She also fed us cookies, that never hurts when you are bribing kids to do things. It all goes back to the summer Bible school when they bribe you with red Kool Aid and sugar cookies, we couldn’t resist that stuff.
It always seemed to me that we were in the midst of putting on a show or at least talking about it when we were kids. We also spent a lot of time singing along to the radio.
When we got older, we stopped putting on shows. Instead I auditioned for some plays in high school. In the very first play, I played the biggest Billy Goat Gruff. I added a prop, a big shaker labeled “Garlic Salt” that I shook on the imaginary grass before I ate it. I thought it was pretty funny, all the little kids that saw it liked it. I was only slightly embarrassed that we had to perform it at my old grade school where my sister Mary was then a teacher. The principal made a point out of introducing me to the kids. That would have been OK if I hadn’t been wearing a beard.
I was also in a couple musicals and a couple of one-act plays. Looking back, I have very fond memories of doing the plays and being in a cast. Teamwork is a good thing and it is not just taught in football practice as so many people believe.
Even now, when I see a play I think how much fun it looks. I envy the actors, the dancers, the extras, heck I envy the prop guy. Imagine the gypsy life of an actress and all that it entails. Fancy cocktail parties and wearing borrowed jewels or better yet, jewels you own. Limosines so long your car arrives 5 minutes before you do. Walking into Sardi’s or 21 and getting a standing ovation from your many admirers and Cindy Adams mentioning your performance from opening night in her column in The Post.
But I didn’t become an actress, or a prop master. I became an employee in an insurance company. I started out in data entry and eventually worked my way up in the company to systems analyst. I loved my job, I loved the people and the work.
I loved that we ordered Chinese food on Wednesday and that at Christmas time we put up a little fake tree and we decorated it with handmade decorations with pictures of all of our cats and dogs. The ornaments are beautiful and it always made me smile when we put it up.
Looking back on my choices of careers, I don’t think I made a bad decision. However, I believe that everyone, in every career deserves a standing ovation and a nice little trophy. Everyone, not just professionals, everybody from the guy that delivers my newspaper in the snow and cold at 3 AM (yes, I know that’s the time, I’m often up sitting in my chair with my legs up) to my husband who has to pick up all my meds and take me to all of my appointments each month and Jane who isn’t just the woman who cleans my house, she’s also my friend and finally to my coworkers who were the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
Each one had talents and each one stepped up when we had huge backlogs and we all pulled together and accomplished some pretty amazing things. From Darlene and her never ending quest to get things right, to Rose Ann’s quiet hard work that produced amazing results, to Lori who helped me do my job better and to Sally who was so thoughtful and caring to everyone she worked with and Louie, Shellhead and Trappy, all of you are the reason I enjoyed working there for so long. If I was still able to work, I would give you all a standing ovation. Each of you deserves it and much more.
So the next time you’re alone and in front of a mirror, pick up that hairbrush and give your acceptance speech and thank all the little people that got you where you are today. You deserve it. Bravo.
Thanks for listening.