Sue Sims Pearson
weekday morning when she enters the darkened classroom, she puts
a CD in the player. Depending on her mood, she may play blues
or big band or rock and roll, but the music is always there. She
pumps up the volume because no one else is in the building, but
she wouldnt care anyway. Its my room.
song triggers a memory. Sometimes the memory is one shed
like to forget, but it is stuck in her mind like a needle caught
in a scratch on a 45-rpm vinyl record. Once in a while, only a
fragment of a memory flashes on her minds eye, and she wastes
time trying to remember the yellow, spaghetti-strapped dress and
the Japanese lanterns. When was that?
of her music transports her back in time to before she began her
descent into a world of rash decisions and big mistakes. She remembers
pep rallies and softball games and Cotillions and double dating
and 56 pink Chevys and her mamas jive rendition of
a sacred hymn. She smiles. Mamas boogie-woogie on the piano
drove Aunt Nina crazy. Way to go, Mama!
sings softly along with the songs as she moves about the classroom
turning on lights and straightening desks. She recalls the first
organized dance she attended. It was a Christmas dance at the
country club. Her grandmother made her a full circular skirt from
white felt embedded with red and gold glitter. Underneath were
layers of stiffly starched net petticoats in red and white that
scratched her legs. She danced the Bop to Dream Lover
with a tall, lanky, black-haired boy and slow-danced to Lonely
Boy with a short, chubby blonde with sweaty hands. That
was almost fifty years ago!
she is transported to 1962. Her British pen pal has sent a thick
envelope containing clippings from magazines and newspapers touting
the newest craze in the British music industry. Her friend has
seen them in person and proclaims they will be bigger than Elvis.
There are photos of four long-haired (at least for that day) boys
grinning for the camera and brief, very brief, biographies of
each. She writes to her friend that shes not sure about
the Beatles. Do you think thats possible?
daddy was tone deaf and had two left feet, but her mama could
sing and dance. She learned the Jitterbug from her mama when she
was ten. Twelve years later she tried to teach her younger brother
to dance, but he inherited their daddys extra left foot.
Her mama couldnt even teach him. You must learn how to
dance. What will you do? Stand around and look stupid?
bell rings, and students wander in the room. At first they snicker
and give her sideways glances. She refuses to stop the music.
Later in the year they will come to appreciate it, but for now
they think shes crazy. They ask to bring in their own CDs;
she politely declines and puts on the Eagles. Listen, Grasshoppers.
Listen and make memories.
Mississippi Delta native, Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson teaches
English to eager eighth graders in Wayne County, North Carolina.
Her work has been published at www.usadeepsouth.com, where she
is Associate Editor, as well as www.asouthernjournal.com and in
the Mississippi magazine Tombigbee Country.
highly active grandchildren and a neurotic dachshund keep Ms.
Pearson busy, but she is sporadically working on her first novel.
Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson