I remember sitting in my room in Murphysboro, when I was seventeen years old, I was attempting to do the impossible, or so it seemed to me. I was changing high schools between the sophomore and junior year. And not just changing to the school across town. I moved ninety miles north to a different town and state,
I had met some of my classmates the previous spring. My spring break had come a week or two earlier than theirs. My father was teaching there while attending classes to get his PhD. at the university eight miles down the road. Having nothing better to do, I decided to go to school with dad one of the days of my spring break.
He was in the middle of rehearsals for the spring play, a play that I was intimately familiar with. It was a play called J.B. by Archibald MacLeish. It was a retelling of the Biblical story of Job. My dad was obsessed by it. He had done a production of it at Paducah Tilghman high school several years before when I was eight. I had played one of Job’s children in the Tilghman production. I had been in the third grade at the time but I had been an extra in a summer stock play the summer before and I had this acting thing down.
I enjoyed seeing the differences and similarities between this production and the one I had been in. When you are in a play, you learn everyone’s lines. You can’t help it. You hear them over and over again in rehearsal. Besides, that’s the first thing an actor has to learn how to do, memorize the lines of the part that he is playing.
I met a lot of people that day but I hung out with a group of girls most of the day. I had learned that it was much more fun hanging out with girls than guys. I sat in on dad’s classes and ate lunch in the cafeteria with the aforementioned group of girls. I remember hanging out with them on a break from rehearsal that afternoon. Several of the girls were smoking outside the auditorium where the rehearsal was being held. The rest of the group were hanging out there to keep them company.
One girl was bragging that she had gone to Woodstock the summer before. I doubted she had but I didn’t challenge her. I had a friend that had gone hitch hiking that same summer and he was only a year older than me. That would have made him sixteen the previous summer. The bragging girl put out her cigarette and kissed me hard, out of the blue. Then she turned and went back into the auditorium for rehearsal.
I didn’t really know how to process such an impromptu show of affection. Especially not from such a “liberated” alpha female. She had big boobs and, as was the fashion at the time, didn’t wear a bra. The girl who had appointed herself as my guide for the day was totally embarrassed by the whole situation. She was also the stage manager of the play and was smitten by dad. Dad was kind but brooked no nonsense from students like that.
It certainly gave me something to think about on the drive home that night, Later that summer we moved to Murphysboro. I ended up running around with that same group of girls for the next two years, plus a couple of other people. We were the hippy crowd. The theater crowd. We thought we were dangerous and bad. We were actually pussy cats. I miss those people. I wonder how their lives turned out.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.