It was a few weeks before Christmas in 1981 and all the halls of Richton Elementary School came alive with handmade Santa Clauses made from construction paper, scissors and glitter. I remember it like it was yesterday that Mrs. Anderson tapped on the door of my homeroom class to call me out in into the hall near the tinsel door wreaths and streamers of in holiday colors to give me the coveted role of ten lords a leaping in the Christmas play. I nearly fainted.
All I could think about for the rest of the day was how truly remarkable my breakout role in front of all the other fifth and sixth graders would be the very thing that catapulted my popularity from shy kid in the corner to child star sensation. Forget arithmetic, compound sentences or geography, for I had other things to consider like my costume.
For weeks mama and I scoured the department stores in search of green knickers, white stockings, and other ideas for my debut ensemble. All the pieces came together beautifully as mama, no seamstress at all, borrowed a vest from Miss Evelyn at Casey’s department store to use as her inspiration as she cut the most regal vest from yards of bright red felt. She would not be undone by the fact that none of the store’s versions of children’s vests lacked a festive quality. Mama sewed that red vest by hand while I practiced my lines for her that year leading up to showtime.
I wore a pair of daddy’s vintage brown dress shoes and my Uncle Wayne’s brown hat. Eric Jones passed me in the hallway as I rushed to rehearsal one afternoon and replied, “You go, David!” The power of my star is beginning to shine, I thought to myself. Oh, it was going to be the production of a lifetime as Lela Jean Hubbard hit all the right notes from the small group of carolers to the left of the stage and all the eight maids a milking sat on their buckets around a giant paper mache cow.
Day after day of rehearsals I stood in waiting behind the dark curtain behind Kelli Shannon’s poofy ballerina costume and in front of Phillip Brewer who kept hitting me in the back of the head with his bagpipes. Time and time again we lined up, waited for our cue, and hit our marks for Mrs. Anderson. Then, the horror that only a child actor understands happened — the play was postponed until after Christmas! I still get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking of it all.
Never fear, it was resurrected with a bit of a script change for the following March and renamed The Twelve Days of Springtime, complete with a partridge in a magnolia tree. It was magic! The most popular fifth grader, and also one of the eight maids a milking, smiled at me and I got to march behind nine ladies dancing in the parade.