One hit wonder

My Junior year of high school was my best. An outsider would probably attribute my joy to the fact that I had one of the leading roles in our high school musical, but there were other factors. Things like getting my driver’s license. Geometry was over and done with, leaving me to pursue funner stuff, Algebra and Trigonometry. At that point, I knew which high school teachers I could count on to let us get away with goofing off, and which ones to avoid. I was settled now in my role as first chair, as the director gave me the role of last-minute tunings, on stage, before he appeared at our band concerts. Now, the hallways at school were filled with younger faces who were much more naive about things; the way I was two years earlier. In a word, I developed a sense of power and confidence — in high school — of all places.

Perhaps this was what gave me the confidence needed to not only read for the script for the lead in the Spring of my Junior Year, but also to sing. Alone. Sing. All by myself in front of peers and classmates — and soon — their parents and families. Leads were to go to the seniors, as a courtesy. But, by gosh, they couldn’t let me slip away, so they gave it to me as a Junior. I had talent.

As the Junior year left, my senior year brought the opportunity for the senior class play. Auditions took place in the fall. Of course, with the confidence I had built up by this point, my role, was in the bag. Except, that I didn’t make it. I didn’t even make the choir. As I scanned the list, posted in the hallway bulletin board, I looked for clues… did everyone who starred in the musical last year get rejected? No, not everyone. I tried to make some kind of logical connection to understand why they didn’t choose me. I must have preformed horribly last year. I did something terribly wrong. Shame and embarrassment descended my shoulders, and every inch of breathing space around me. Luckily, the final school bell had already rang for the day, and I was alone in the hallway. I took off, before anyone had a chance to see me. I needed to get to my own room, with the door locked, fast.

Except, my pesky younger brother had already seen me, and he was high-tailing it behind me. Couldn’t wait, I figured, to tease me on this one. Because I had a head start, I made it home before he had the chance to pelt me with taunts about not making it in the play. When I got home, he worked his way around to look me in the eye. Here it comes, I thought.

“Susie,” he said. “I’ve been looking all over for you. I saw you didn’t make it and I was trying to find you in the halls at school to see if you were OK.”

The ache in my heart to reach the privacy and safety of my own room soon opened and gave way as I considered that maybe I could wallow in self-pity out in the open, in every room of the house. I forgot about the play. Our parents were recently divorced, and while I zoned in denial, my brother realized, before me, that we needed a new set of operating rules. One that didn’t include our favorite pastime, fighting like cats and dogs. We may only have each other, as uncertainty about the future loomed. This was the olive branch. Like mine, his eyes had tears; hurt that I didn’t get a part. More than ever did I want that part in the play; just give me that part because I can’t bear to see him suffer. I don’t remember feeling so much hopeless sadness since Mom gave our new kitty away one day while we were at school.

My senior year wasn’t much fun. The sense of confidence I built in my Junior year got knocked down in a series of doubts centralized by one single question that was never answered, “Why not me.” Maybe I should have asked, and learned. Looking back, I know, as a parent, I would have found out. Harmless miscommunication can do great damage, and someone should step in and help clear the air.

But, I did have a renewed sense of family. From that point on, I walked through the hallways at school knowing I had an ally I never new existed before. My brother. We’re still close like that.


I think its only appropriate that I write about this today, as Brook on American Idol, I learned has been voted off the show. I have never watched American Idol, but friends, neighbors, and complete strangers have been stopping me on the street to say, “You remind me of Brook.” I hear she has long hair, I say. “Still, you look like her,” they say.

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22 comments to “One hit wonder”
  1. Brothers are great. My sisters were like that…all four of them. That is part of maturity…not to realize that we don’t need our family, and can stand on our own two feet, but to realize how very much we do need them, and to take the responsibility for their need of us.

    This was brilliant, Lilibeth: to realize that we don’t need our family… to take the responibility for their need for us.

  2. I had a younger brother, too, and I have missed him for the almost quarter of a century that he has been gone. He was the person who always supportive, non-judgmental and loving.

    I relate to your high-school years. I was that over-confident girl, too. I was probably insufferable.

    A great post!

    Overconfident, I was… to a fault! Granny, I’m so sorry about your brother… I’m sure you miss him everyday.


  3. How great that your brother became your ally. You’ve provided me with some insight: after my parents’ divorce, my brother and I stopped fighting too. It was as if we instinctively realised we were in this together. How special that sibling relationship can be.

    I remember reading about your brother’s Christmas visit, Charlotte. I was happy for you, as I know how special it is.

  4. God, I know just how you must have felt when you didnt get selected. I totally empathise! That happened to me in school, when I was about 12, I guess. I loved singing and till then I hadnt come across rejection, so I was completely unselfconscious singing in front of an audience. I auditioned for a school talent show where I sang a religious song. I know I was way better than the girls who were selected, but they had chosen to sing ditties from a popular movie (at the time), and that proved crucial as I didnt know any such songs. It was such a letdown and ever after that my confidence in my singing was never the same.

    An awful feeling, Shammi. Sorry you know exactly how it feels. I wish I had known how to move through it at that age…but I failed to communicate… and find out.

  5. You’re not a one hit wonder in my book…. and I think they screwed up. High schools do that, a lot. It’s traditional, in fact. One burst of intelligence, and then right into the brick wall of organizational stupidity.

    Thanks Bill… and I think your’re right. That’s is exactly how it was!

  6. You thought trig was funner than algebra? No way! : )

    I didn’t have siblings, but I can see that I was right that it would be good for us to have two kids. My kids are very close and I know they will be good friends.

    I’m sure they will, Henitsirk, … and yes, trig was fun, but things got a little messy in Calculus.

  7. It’s interesting how the bond between siblings tightens following a divorce. Almost as if it’s a survival mechanism.
    It’s certainly good.

    You’re right, Anthony… I’m glad we found that bound early in our lives. It’s served us well.

  8. what a great memory… not the part about the disillusionment,, but the part about discovering that your brother was on your side… at nearly 47 i am still trying to figure out where my sisters stand on being related to me….

  9. I love Brooke White…I cried when she got knocked off a TV show…sweet girl…

    Did you ever find out what happened? Why didn’t you make at LEAST chorus..that just made me mad..and how sweet was your brother.. THAT makes me cry too…

    I don’t think I would have been happy in the chorus, mp!

  10. This was just so beautiful. And the picture-priceless. I love my brother like that…my little baby brother who towers over me now, and gave me the second light of my life-a fabulous nephew!

    That’s awesome, Shannon.

  11. I’m glad that your brother turned into you ally when you least expected it.

    As for that confidence I hope it has long since been rebuilt. As for being compared to Brook, I would consider that quite a compliment. Brook has been one of the most genuine contestants that show has ever seen. I would think if they see you as anything like her that makes you a very special person.

    I totally
    didn’t see it coming… he was my hero.

  12. This was such a touching story Susie. You’re so right that someone should have inquired about why you were overlooked. It could have been an oversight and if addressed the teacher may have exclaimed ‘OH no , How could I have forgotten brilliant Susie J”! I would like to believe that is the reason you had your heartbroken. I love how your sweet story turned around with such a wonderful ending of sibling support and love. You are so lucky to have a wonderful relationship with your brother.. and that certainly is Much more fulfilling than a happy senior year.

    I wish… oh how I wish. I wish also, I hadn’t let it get to me… but in a small town, that play’s all you got going for you!

  13. If you had to go through the hurt and disappointment what a wonderful (and much longer lived) silver lining you found in your new closeness with your brother.

    On a completely different note, I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from reading the words “fun” and “trigonometry” in the same sentence!

    I had a great teacher, Robin!! Horrible… just horrible Geometry teacher. Had me in tears!

  14. I had a brother but we fought as kids and as a young adult the death of my mother changed him. I wanted to hug you both after reading this defining moment. Thank you!

    You have a beautiful smile and so does Brooke.

    Bittersweet to gain that friendship, at the cost of defeat, isn’t it? And thank you.

  15. How wonderful that your brother stepped up to the plate and showed you that you did have someone, when all else was topsy-turvy. Well told, dear.

  16. What a terrific post. Our family even when you least expect it will be there for you. Thanks for sharing this with us. And yeah you do kind of look like Brooke I think the smile is a big resemblance.

  17. Brothers and sisters are what sustain you through all the horrible times that you have to endure together. Much as I adore my parents, there will always be an us (siblings) vs. them (parents) mentality from our time as kids. And though it’s gone down to almost nothing, there are still secrets we keep for each other.

    And how fun, to gather with you siblings as adults, and tell them all the stuff you did wrong as a kid, that the parents never knew!

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