My third-grade teacher was a firecracker. Young, pretty and vivacious, Miss Kroll made learning fun. Every day following traditional lessons, we’d push our desks to the side of the classroom, and she’d plug in her portable record player and teach the class to dance. At age eight, most of the kids were shy, awkward, whining, or uninterested. But not me!
I loved the daily dance lessons and was a fast learner. Pretty soon I could cha-cha, foxtrot, samba – keeping up with Miss Kroll step for step. I became her “pet” and thought she was the best teacher ever.
An only child, I spent a lot of at-home time on my own. My parents had a busy social calendar, and most nights I was left in the care of our housekeeper, Daisy, who’d sit in the kitchen listening to her radio.
To fill the hours, I created an imaginary world where I was as beautiful as the stars on TV. I’d play one of my parents’ albums on the stereo and pretend to be Doris Day, Julie Andrews or Dinah Shore, lip-syncing into a pretend candlestick microphone. I was applauded and adored.
So when Miss Kroll announced the news – she was helping to plan a student talent night, I didn’t need convincing. This was my chance to be in a real-life show!
Auditions were held in the auditorium. Miss Kroll and two other teachers sat at a table facing the stage. I waited nervously for my turn as names were called one by one. Finally “Susie Miller” was announced, and as I walked up the steps to the stage, I glanced at Miss Kroll. Her wink and smile calmed the fluttering in my stomach.
I can’t remember what song I sang, but I did the best I could. Much to my surprise, I was among the names read who made it into the show. Miss Kroll congratulated me with a big hug.
Because the music teacher would accompany singers on the piano, I was asked to bring sheet music to the first rehearsal. My mother took me to a record store where I chose “April in Paris” for my performance.
Then I decided what I would wear. My favorite dress was ivory with a pattern of tiny pale pink roses and a pink satin ribbon tied around the waist. It had a full skirt with a crinoline and looked just like the ones the TV stars wore.
I walked on air into the first rehearsal. Miss Kroll wasn’t there. The two other teachers who had judged the auditions were supervising. I sat on a folding chair on stage along with the other students waiting to perform.
When it was my turn, I handed the sheet music to the pianist. It was a magical moment. I was part of a great show business adventure.
When I finished my song, one of the teachers signaled to me to come down from the stage. He walked me to the back of the auditorium where it was dark and deserted. He spoke in a whisper as he told me the show was running long and my song was being eliminated. But I knew what he was really saying: “You’re just not good enough.”
Joy and happiness drained from my body. I felt queasy and dizzy. I’m sure he said something like he was sorry as he walked away, but I didn’t hear another word. I think he told me to go back to my classroom, but I stood frozen, tears streaming down my face.
Unable to face my classmates, I went directly to the nurse’s office complaining of a stomachache. The nurse took my pulse and temperature, but of course I wasn’t sick. I convinced her to call my mother to come take me home.
As I waited, Miss Kroll walked in. She had heard what happened. I wanted her to be outraged and tell me she would demand I be put back in the show. All she offered was a sympathetic pat on my head. I never felt the same about her again.
Following a decades-long career in marketing communication and public relations, Susan Barocas joined the memoir workshop to explore her skills and potential as a writer beyond the professional world. She is discovering new, inspiring aspects of the creative process, learning how to process constructive criticism and enjoying the company of talented, supportive people.