My eleventh year proved to be very important in my life. Before I would turn twelve, Mount St. Helen's would lose it's cool and the world would continue to try to unravel the Iran Hostage Crisis. Today I wonder if we're reliving 1979.
But in my corner of the world, I entered fifth grade with Mrs. Funk, a young, pretty woman who changed the course of my life. I doubt she even knows how.
In October of that year, Mrs. Funk had a Halloween writing contest. The winner got a gingerbread house (made out of graham crackers) that was all decorated for Halloween. Not only that, but the winner got to read their story in front of the parents and school at the play our class was putting on for Halloween.
The prize was amazing, but this was the first chance I'd ever had to enter a writing contest. I wanted to win. I wanted to win so much that I stayed after school, in my desk, writing. Now, you have to understand, I never stayed after school unless it was compulsory. And I think Mrs. Funk was a little surprised to see me, a less than stellar student, working so hard.
So I finished my story and turned it in.
First Taste of Theater
Then the second biggest influence of my life slammed into me. Mrs. Funk began having try-outs for the play we were going to do in front of the school. I was nervous, but I really wanted to do it too. Imagine my surprise when I was cast as the Green Goblin... or was it Mean Goblin... Well, I was cast as the cool bad guy. Okay... as bad as any character at that age.
When the day came to announce who won the writing contest, Mrs. Funk had a tough time telling us. She didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. It was killing us and we all urged her on. I knew I wouldn't win, so when she called the name, I looked around like everyone else to watch the winning kid go up and claim his/her prize.
It took a moment for me to realize she had called my name.
Totally embarrassed, I walked to the front of the room where I read my story for the entire class. It was the first 'serious' work I'd done and I'd actually won. But more than that, my story was being enjoyed by more than just me. It was very heady stuff.
There were other things from that year that I can still recall. I remember reading Call of the Wild while everyone else was reading chapter books. Mrs. Funk repeatedly checked on me, concerned that I'd bitten off more than I could chew. But I assured her I was enjoying it. Who doesn't like a good dog story?
I remember a lot from that year. I remember telling a girl in my class that she had fleas (a version of cooties) and feeling terrible about it later. I remember taking my action figures (not dolls) to show-n-tell, especially Twinkie and Buck.
At the end of that year, Mrs. Funk transferred to another school and was gone. When I think of those days, I still sigh. Grateful for what I learned and amazed what life still had in store.