When I was four years old, I began my brilliant academic career by spending two weeks on Romper Room. Every morning during my Romper Room tenure, my mother would dress me nicely, but on my last day, my mom dressed me extra-special pretty, in a silky pink dress with lacy eyelets around the Peter Pan collar, and she piled my curly hair atop my head, fastening everything with sweet pink butterfly barretts. Miss Nancy, the star of Romper Room, always gave graduating students a few special minutes of one-on-one air time. This was my day to shine
On the car ride to the studio that morning, all I could think about was what I was going to say when it was my special time with Miss Nancy. When Miss Nancy called me to her side on-air, I swear to you, I was all prepped. Miss Nancy gave me a little cuddle, then said, "So, Stacie, what would you like to say to everyone watching at home?"
I just stared into the camera, wide-eyed and stupid-like. In the blink of a (camera's) eye, all the grey matter in my little head seemed to have oozed out somehow. I think Miss Nancy herself kind of threw me off with her perfume. She smelled like the roses in my Grandmom's backyard. Sure, my Mom sometimes wore perfume, but only on special occasions. This was a Tuesday, for God's sake. On Tuesdays, Mom usually smelled like Pledge.
Miss Nancy, being a Romper Room pro and everything, try to nudge me with a little prompting.
"Do you have any pets at home?" Miss Nancy tried.
Nothing. I just stared into the camera like Dante staring into the depths of hell.
"How about a sister? Don't you have a little sister, sweetheart?" Miss Nancy tried again.
"Yes," I droned, like a little girl robot.
"Well, tell us about her, " Miss Nancy urged.
I swear I could remember nothing. Then, out of the blue, I recalled something that my father had said about sissy right before Mom and I had left for the studio.
"MY GOD, THERE WAS A LOT OF POOP IN HER DIAPER THIS MORNING!" I screamed into the microphone.
The entire studio became mute, except for the screeching noise of metal chairs, inhabited by other mother's, slowly inching away from the chair in which my mother sat. My mother, her face ashen, a stark contrast to the alabaster gloves she wore on her hands, pretended not to notice. I blew a kiss to her. All of the other mother's turned their faces away, as if I were throwing a grenade.
"Well, let's have some cookies now," Miss Nancy said, weakly, barely recovering from the shock of having a uncouth heathen on her show.
When we got home, I ran around the house, showing everybody my Do-Bee Diploma, not even noticing that my father seemed to have the same shell-shocked look on his face as my mother.
"Tonight, I think I might have a sip of beer. To help me sleep," I overheard my mother say. My dad just nodded.
Hard to believe, I know, but I didn't appear on television again for almost 15 years. When I was a sophomore in college, a bunch of us were recruited to answer phones for a local televised call-a-thon. My mother watched, of course, sitting home, already in her night gown, the first of two nightly beers on the table beside her. I cut her a lot of slack about those beers. By this time, I had been embarrassing my mother for close to 20 years. Frankly, if I had had to raise a child like me, I would have been found nightly shooting crack behind the neighborhood A&P.
Sometime during the call-a-thon, my mother received a call from my Aunt Betty.
"I'm watching Stacie on TV, " Aunt Betty said, spritely. "She looks so grown up."
"She does, doesn't she?" Mom agreed.
"Thank God they didn't let her near a microphone," Aunt Betty continued.
"I'll drink to that," my mother said, laughing.