Remember the old T.V. show Cheers? And how everyone yelled “Norm!” when that lovable character entered the bar? For years now, that’s been me when I walk in the door at pre-school singing. “Dougie!!” the kids shout in unison. It got so out of hand I had to insist on the silent cheer, fists in the air gesturing “Hooray!!” as I got my guitar out of the case. No matter what else was happening in my life, I could always count on this little hit of rock star fame at least once a week.
It was my first day back teaching school after some seven months away (counting summer vacation). I had dropped in a few times in the Fall and even taught for five days straight around Halloween, but now this was the real deal. Every morning awaken to the alarm, drive in the near dark to school, struggle with parking amidst streetcleaning, PG &E work and school construction and show up at class after class. 8th grade, 8th grade, 6th grade, a moment to visit the facilities, then Bam! 5 year olds, 5 year olds. Short lunch and singing time, short meeting and then, joy of all joys!, preschool singing. I walked into the room full of kids and was met with exuberant… silence.
Ouch! Was this my signal to start booking gigs as a has-been singer in Las Vegas? My demotion from giving Carnegie Hall-like concerts to appearing at the Rotary Club luncheon? My move from swinging with the wee ones at the Blue Note to getting on the birthday party circuit with a clown nose?
Well, to be fair, 1/3 of the kids were three-year olds who hadn’t really met me yet. As for the other 2/3rds, seven months in the life of a 4 or 5 -year-old is a pretty big percentage of their life span. They had switched—understandably— to adoring my colleague James and I was just a dim memory in their forming brain cells.
But I’m determined to get my mojo working and win their adoration anew. Pull out the show stoppers like “Free at Last!” and “Pat Works on the Railway” and “John Henry” that gets them so quiet just as John “lays down his hammer and he dies” and see if they can once again associate me with great music and festive celebration.
Check with me in a month. If it doesn’t work, I’ll see you in Las Vegas.