My eleven-year-old son was so excited yesterday to compete in the Martin Luther King Jr. speech competition. He had chosen part of one of Dr. King’s speeches, memorized it well, put plenty of feeling into his voice and passion into his gestures. He had practiced it over and over again, spending countless hours getting ready for his competition.
He first had to win at the school level. Having done that, he went to the district competition yesterday where about forty other students also gave their speeches. Each student had an assigned time and came into a room with six judges and perhaps another competitor or two and their families to await their turn.
As any mother can attest, it’s almost more nerve-wracking to sit and watch your child perform something they worked so hard on than to do it yourself. I had sweaty palms and a racing heart as my son got up and gave his speech. He did a great job, garnering applause and accolades a plenty. Then, they asked me to come up and tell something about my son.
I came up front and told them how I was proud he had researched the background of his speech, “Eulogy for Martyred Children”. Then, I said it was fun to watch him take on the challenge of a serious acting job since he had only done comedic acting before.
One of the judges then said, “Hey, tell us a joke!” I thought my son would either say he didn’t have one or come up with some lame joke, and we would slink off stage. But no.
By some uncanny coincidence, my eleven-year-old had to have a comedic monologue memorized for an acting class the exact same day. I was going to take him to it about two hours after the speech competition. I had joked with him, “You’d better not mix them up and give your Frankenthumb monologue at the speech competition.” We laughed. I never thought I’d actually be hearing it.
Before I even know what is happening I hear him say, “Well, I do have a monologue.” Then, the judges are cheering him on, asking for a performance.
So, he takes the stage again, this time with a rather different eulogy than the first one. He gave the first two minutes of Frankenthumb, the part where, of course, there is a minister, a dead body, and a brother giving a very different kind of eulogy.
I sat down again, not knowing whether to cheer, because he did it so well, or hang my head in shame because it was not the most appropriate of choices for the occasion.
While my son was giving his monologue, another boy and his parents came in. I can only imagine what they were thinking when they saw the boy up front saying, “some bizarre experiment involving, I don’t know, the rejuvenation of dead tissue!”
“What?” they must have been thinking, “I’ve never heard one of Martin Luther King’s speeches that say that!” No, no you haven’t
Five of the six judges laughed uproariously. The sixth gave a slight frown the entire monologue. I think he would have liked to give my son a dishonorable mention.
My son didn’t end up placing in the top three. But, the shared giggles we had in the van on the way home made every minute of practice worth it.
It may not have been the “dream” people were expecting, and I wondered if it was my nightmare for a brief moment, but for my son, giving his other monologue too was a dream come true.