My childhood is something I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. When we grow up and become older, we tend to look back on our youth, and childhood years with fond nostalgia. I am no different. However, I truly believe what I was exposed, and introduced to shaped who I am today. There are three main focuses that I deeply remember from about age five until about eleven or twelve: Travel, Church and Theatre
My grandparents love to travel, and because my grandfather is a retired Air Force Colonel he and his family (my grandmother, mother and uncle included) were afforded the ability to see different parts of the world in his twenty-three year career. His remarkable ability as a medical professional, has also given him the ability to travel too. I can remember going to The Grand Canyon when I was in the second grade; what a marvelously stupendous trip that was. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to continue to see different people, places and things. I have been very fortunate to do that. In high school, I was a student ambassador with The People-to-People Student Ambassador Program. I spent a glorious 2.5 weeks in Western Europe in a dutch tour bus, riding around Europe, seeing the sites with students from Tennessee. Just last summer, I spent three weeks doing a collegiate study abroad in London, England – I can’t tell you how “at home” I felt in London. I always wanted to travel as a child, and fortunately I have accomplished a dream and goal. It is an ongoing dream to continue TO travel, for whatever reason and however I can.
Growing up, I was always active. I had a mouth that ran away with me, and an attention span that followed. Yet, there were two-days in the week I truly looked forward to: Sunday and Wednesday. Sunday, because of church. Wednesday, because it was choir practice and the church “Family Night” supper.I remember loving to go to church, it was always an adventure. First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Longview, Texas is where I discovered my inner musician, and it’s where I found a connection with religion – through music. The church building was big. At least, in I was a six year old, it was. So big in fact, it leant itself well to several exhausting rounds “Tag” or “Hide-and-Seek.” There was always something new to discover about the church. The sanctuary, is where I took solace. A big space with warm stain glass windows and old style hanging lamps, it was a beautiful space in any season – Christmas, most especially. I always wanted to be at church. I loved the fellowship, the atmosphere, the people. What I loved most of all was the sound. You probably know where this is going. Yes. Music was such an part of my young life, the first thing I remember playing on my keyboard, was the Doxology. I remember being in church choir and loving every minute. My sister and mother were both in separate choirs themselves, and I always wanted to be involved. I so wanted to follow in the footsteps of the music minister/organist, Rev. Gala Strunk (who is still making music there). Everything she was involved in sounded fantastic, whether it was the various choirs, handbell groups, the concerts performed at the church or the Sunday worship services – it was always fantastic. I’ve never had the chance to thank her for the inspiration she gave me, nor have I been back to worship in my church “home” in many years. The memories though, are still fresh. I’ve never been able to find the passion I had as a child, the sense of “awe” and “wonder” has left me. It’s been replaced by different feelings. Music is still there, but in a different way. Church, I can’t say I go to anymore. Congregations these days (many, not all) are about reaching out to today’s people with an audio/visual message to match. I don’t need big screens and several choruses of the latest and greatest contemporary christian music. I’ve flirted with idea of converting to not only Judaism but also becoming a member of the Anglican church. I’m not sure why though.. I’m still searching.
Theater is major cultural aspect, and for me it’s like air and water – essential for life. Essential for my life at any rate. I was introduced to theatre (Broadway musicals, primarily) by my grandfather. He enjoys listening to cast albums and watching The TONY Awards faithfully very season. During the years that my grandparents lived in Oklahoma, my summers were usually spent with them. They lived in a burb of Oklahoma City and were far enough away from us that visiting always meant a six hour drive. Yet, going to see them during my summer vacations meant I would be seeing a show at The Lyric Theatre! I do not have any recollection of seeing a show, without my grandparents also being there. Whether it was “Starlight Express” in Las Vegas in 1995 or “The King & I” or “Beauty and the Beast” in New York City in 1996, they have always been there. There are only a few rare times, I’ve seen a show without being their company. They gave me the introduction, the knowledge and I have such a deep respect and fondness for it. These days, I’ve turned my passion into something to do – writing reviews. Last Spring, MTSU did a production of “RENT” the 1996 Pultizer Prize and TONY winning show by the late Jonathan Larson. I wrote the review! Just this past week I reviewed yet another production, “Into the Woods” at my school. I’ve always wanted to be a theater reviewer. I love to read them in Variety, The New York Times and The New Yorker and I’ve always wanted to be like Frank Rich (NYT’s former chief theater critic from 1980 until 2011). Perhaps I can live my dream of making it big and reviewing the shows on Broadway! I remember when I was in New York in 1996, I developed my own “grading scale” for shows… I should have taken that as a sign!