FREEDOM! What a terrific word for this challenge today. As you can see by my graphic, I have chosen a Charles Dicken’s quote on the topic: “I ask only to be free. The butterflies are free.” Of course this has more than just a coincidental meaning to me as I DO love butterflies, however this challenge gives me the opportunity to share the coincidence.
Okay everyone, do the Wayne’s World hand move here as we go back in time…
It’s 1974 and I am a couple months away from walking the stage to receive my high school diploma. Life is good, I have a few really good friends and hang out with the drama students. Why? Because this is my tribe.
As we had relocated from Detroit between Christmas and New Year’s Eve of 1972, I hadn’t really had the opportunity to develop the intense relationships with the students at the new school by graduation. There were plenty of reasons for that, but not the least of which was that I had to sit for my mid-term exams after only having two weeks to study the books. They were not studying from the same text books as in my previous school. I flunked each and every one of my 11th grade classes. It was a monumental undertaking for me to even imagine that I could somehow make up those lost credits so that I would be eligible to graduate with my peers. So, I decided that the quickest way I could gain as many points as possible, was to take every English course the school offered. It worked. This is how I ended up in the drama department, their classes were considered English electives.
One exceedingly cold January 1973 morning, I was standing at the bus stop waiting for that big yellow taxi to haul me and my school mates to the big brown building, when a voice from my not so distant past called out my name. I glanced all around, saw no one I recognized, all those standing with me were still strangers pretty much, so I figured I was hearing voices. Then there was a continuous horn honk and my name being called again. Oh my, Joanne, from the old Detroit neighborhood was sitting there in a big red car. Her smiling face made my heart skip a beat. I ran to the car and as we chatted, she told me that she lived in the apartments behind us there and had graduated from the school I was going to only a couple years earlier. As the bus was coming, I had to go, so she asked for my phone number and said she was going to call that evening, and she did.
What Joanne was doing in her spare time, was volunteering with the local community theatre group. I have never heard of such a thing but it sounded exciting. She was acting in plays, working behind the scenes and had made many great friends. Naturally, since my parents knew Joanne and her parents, they let her take me to a couple meetings and I was hooked! As most of the people working with the theatre group were adults, I was a novelty and well, sort of treated that way but it didn’t matter to me, this was a real reason to be happy about the move out of Detroit. Up until that point, I was anything but happy!
As I got to know some of these people, I realized that a few of the older members were actually teachers at the high school. Bonus!! Naturally I took their classes and I began to relax, felt accepted and it seemed I always had something fun to look forward to.
I was not really a stranger to live theatre. Back in Highland Park, MI, where I was born and spent the first ten years of my life, there was an awesome children’s theatre where my parents would take us to see amazing productions. It was the brain child of (wait for it, wait for it) George C. Scott and his wife, Colleen Dewhurst, both of whom we would see backstage after the shows when all the kids were invited up, onto the stage to meet the actors. Of course, we had no idea who they were. It wasn’t until I was a bit older, had just come home from the movies with my parents after seeing Patton, that my dad asked me. “Did you recognize anyone in that movie?” (gee, can you hear crickets too?) Once he explained what he meant, I could go back in my mind and remember a younger, thinner, man and his beautiful wife with a kind smile who gave good hugs. Who knew?
In elementary school, I was part of a class play. We performed Sleeping Beauty and I was cast as one of the fairy godmothers who gave the baby her gifts. I believe I was Flora… Because music was part of a Detroit Public School education, every child was in choir. But as all three of us kids really COULD SING, there were plenty of solos during our little concerts.
Once I got into high school, I actually auditioned for the fall production of Funny Girl and made call-backs for the role of Mrs. Brice. However, my health was not good and I ended up requiring emergency surgery and a blood transfusion, so I missed out on being cast in that show. Before I knew it, we were moving…
I told you that, to tell you this…
Okay, we are back in 1974, at John Glenn High School, in Westland, MI and I am on my way to my drama class when I see my buddy, Klop, sitting alone in the theatre. Upon investigation, I find out she’s crying. Seems she’s been cast in a community theatre production of Butterflies are Free.
Crying? What the heck… I’d have been jumping for joy. Here she was being invited to hang with the a-d-u-l-t-s in a REAL play and she was sad? She and I had just been in our senior musical, The Music Man, in leading roles and that was so much fun but it was the last play we would do as school girls. THIS was her big transition into the real world. WOW!
She finally explained that she was upset because she just realized the play was going to be performed the weekend of our Senior Prom. (shut the door) One of the biggest, if not the biggest events of our high school careers, wedged right in between home-coming and graduation itself. Klop bawled, “I’ll be the only senior who misses prom!” Overcome with sympathy, I threw my arms around her and vowed that I would work backstage for the show so I would miss prom with her! She brightened up and promised to love me until we both died (yes, we are still in touch). Done deal and now I had to get to class.
As I slid into my seat next to Prez (we were alphabetically arranged in that class). He kept glancing over at me and smiling. He and I were the only seniors in that class, we lived just a few blocks from each other and had been in that musical together. I smiled back at him and opened my books, waiting for the teacher. Out of nowhere and I mean n-o-w-h-e-r-e, Prez leans over and says, “Will you be my date for Senior Prom?”
Okay, where the hell did that come from? Seriously? Really? We were NOT boyfriend and girlfriend. He was the b-e-s-t looking boy in my class, no kidding. One hot, dark-haired, Italian with a smile that would make the sun apologize. Me? No one was beating a path to my door. I was the character-actress, not the leading lady. The girl guys might have married but NOT a girl guys would date. Now, before you go shaking your finger in my face, admonishing me about self-talk, that part about marrying versus dating, that was a lecture from a fella in my 9th grade class.
Without missing a beat, I told him that I couldn’t because I was working on a play with Klop. He was floored. I never heard a feeble engine on a lawnmower sputter so much. Disbelief, became anger and his anger caused him to stand up and start shouting at me about how I was ruining our senior year. Of course there would be more plays but only one prom and I was the only girl he could take to the prom. Yeah well, would, that that would have really been true…
A couple hours and I DO mean just hours later, sweet little, doe-eyed, apple cheeked, raven haired, underclassman, Mac, and I were standing next to each other in the library when she practically gushed that she was going to be going to the Senior Prom. I gave her a big hug and congratulated her and when I asked who the lucky guy was, of course she said, Prez!
I have to say, I was totally cool with it because he was classmate, not a boyfriend and I had plans, so oh well.
Now, you may be asking yourself, how does the quote I chose connect with the story… In the play, Butterflies are Free, the female lead (Klop) is a free spirited hippie girl named Jill Tanner (played in the 1972 movie by Goldie Hawn). She lives in the apartment next door to Don Baker (Edward Albert). Don, blind from birth, finally moves out of his mother’s place, into his own apartment and these two young people, meet and fall in love. At one point, Jill tells Don that her favorite quote is, “I ask only to be free. The butterflies are free.” He then writes a song around that quote and performs it for her on his guitar.
I have included that clip from the movie here, so please enjoy!
By the way, Klop was amazing. She was all that and a bag of chips. We both went on to do so much more theatre that it was crazy. Prez? We hung out for a few years, as friends but each married different people ages ago. Mac? I have no idea. We were like butterflies, at different stages of development and just like butterflies we took off to find our fields of freedom!
Butterflies are we
Born with wings we cannot see
Called by freedom’s fields
©2016 Annette Rochelle Aben