Sunday, January 08, 2006
The Season Begins
We have just returned from the first speech and debate tournament of the season. We find that involving the children in competition provides a healthy dose of accountability (The speech has to be ready in time for the tournament.) and an incentive to progress quickly up the steep learning curve of communication excellence (If I do well on this, I don't just get an A, I get a trophy - in front of my friends!).
But the very best things that come out of competing in the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association, are the character development and the relationships. Our children have the opportunity to practice saying what needs to be said, even at some personal cost, and build a network of comrades who will stand with them when the boom falls.
"Are you going to be all right?" Lauren's flaming hair swinging off her shoulder curtained this private concern as a cacophony of self-congratulations and farewells swirled around the still center of the two friends. Elizabeth looked at her folded ballots, considering.
Roughly roused babies fussed. Toddlers, too long confined under their mothers' command to silence, wailed their relief. Teens in stage make-up and skewed wigs wrestled cardboard castles and desert sunsets into dusty oblivion in the family pickup.
The county junior-senior high talent competition had featured everything from MTV-style dance routines to classic melodramas, monologues to fully-staged casts-of-thousands. But the only time during the five-hour spectacle when the entire surging, shushing sea of spectators had preserved a rapt silence, had been when Elizabeth took the stage.
It had been an exquisitely executed original monologue detailing the young woman's struggle to find an identity of uniquely feminine power and maturity. She spoke from the maiden's yearnings, from the loving admonitions of mothers, and finally, she spoke with the voices of women millennia-old, upon whose courage and sacrifice the golden age of Greece had been built. Her conclusion? To aspire to motherhood is to seize on the secret dynamo of human society. As she took her bow, there was a long moment of perfect quiet. Next to me, a woman hiccoughed and buried her face against her swaddled infant. A sighing tide had shuddered through the room, swelling into breakers of applause.
Elizabeth unfolded her judges' evaluations. Blazoned in red: "choose a more age-appropriate theme, like dating," "Perhaps your costume could be more matronly," and in sum, "fair to average performance."
Anne, Elizabeth's younger sister, had joined the two. Fresh from her delightful performance of a Kipling story, she clutched the first trophy of her own forensics career: Best Actress. "I don't understand," Anne put in loyally, reading over Elizabeth's shoulder, "You deserve this more than I do."
"Are you going to be all right?" repeated Lauren, whose wickedly funny rendition of C.S. Lewis' ditsy Tarkheena Lazaralene had received equally ignominious treatment.
"Oh, yes," Elizabeth's eyes were over-bright. "If I had just wanted to win, I would have given my humorous speech. But this was my first chance to speak to a secular audience, and I thought that this was something they needed to hear."
The three girls clung together. Branded by the county's scorn they might be. But they wore their crowns of compassion, courage, and humility undimmed.
April 2002. All rights reserved.