By Mims Cushing
When I taught creative writing in the early ‘90s I didn’t have a degree in teaching. I’d never even taken a teaching course. Teaching fourth and fifth graders in Ponte Vedra Beach, to practice on them before launching an adult class, seemed a smart way to go. The kids were my guinea pigs. It was a course for kids who liked to write. It was definitely not remedial writing. They seemed to like it, the parents were happy and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
My hope was to teach adults how to write memoirs. What could possibly go wrong?
For one thing, I came back from a vacation to discover that 66 people signed up for this free class at the local library. I limited the class to the first 20 who signed up. The eight-week class started in September, but by November the students refused to go away. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas feverishly coming up with a continued curriculum.They wanted to continue on to April. Several wanted to put together their memoirs and publish a book — and some of them did. I can still see their faces and I remember their stories.
They found a local publisher and the students gave their book to relatives. My most favorite gifts are the books my students gave me, which are in special shelves in my library.
I gave them dozens of topics to write about, one of which was “My Most Embarrassing Moment.” Here’s mine:
It happened on a lovely Saturday afternoon at a matinee in one of Jacksonville’s more artsy communities. Can’t remember what the play was, but I got a seat in the front row, center, my favorite place to sit. No one was on either side of me to jostle me awake if I fell asleep, which I was prone to do.
I’d been on meds that made me sleepy. I had to fight sleepiness many afternoons, but I was determined to see this play. Evening performances were out of the question, as I was exhausted by late afternoon, but I thought I could handle an afternoon play.
It may have been good, it may have been bad. But before the intermission, I was sound asleep, apparently bellowing a roaring snore unbeknownst to me. I woke up to find the entire cast periodically staring at me as they said their lines. They looked mad. Eyebrows knit. Why were they looking at me like that? It didn’t take me long before I realized I had been snoring. I managed to stay awake until intermission, then decided to sneak out. Oh how happy the cast must been when they realized that lady in the front row had left.
Good thing I didn’t take a seat in the balcony, and start snoring again.
I’m on different meds now, but they too make me sleepy. I still tend to fall asleep at plays and movies, but a friend nudges me to wake up if I’m nodding off.
If you were one of the actors in that play, my heartiest apologies. May I take you out to lunch? And do tell me how the play ends.