Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Simon Cowell's got Nothin' on Elsie Sanders

So, I've taken you with me to hear Elsie Sanders' stories and to dance a little reel. But the journey wouldn't be complete if you missed out on the most memorable of the Kimberly Elementary School outdoor concerts.

You see, Mrs. Sanders loved to sing. And, as with everything she loved, she generously shared this passion with us. Several times a week, we would break open our songbooks, which had these wonderful little colored-ink drawings...and we would sing.

We would sing rounds, we would sing ballads. Mrs. Sanders even taught us to sing "parts." (That was the year the alto in me was conceived and born.)

My favorites were "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain;" "Shoo Fly" (which also sufficed as a square dance number); and my all-time favorite--"Daisy Belle":
"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do
I'm half crazy all for the love of you
It won't be a stylish marriage
I can't afford a carriage
But you'll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two."

Looking back, I realize Mrs. Sanders was using every creative tool in her possession to help us discover our own creativity...our own imagination.

And the lady had a definite ear and appreciation for true talent. In fact, Mrs. Sanders just loved showing off any talent she "discovered." (Just think of her as a sweet, Mrs.-Doub 1960s Simon Cowell.)

One of her favorite "discoveries" were the Nail Sisters--Leah, Vickie and my other best friend, Pam. Their daddy, Dickie, had been training them to be Fa-So-La singers since they were old enough to talk. Their beautiful, acapella, three-part harmony was enough to make grown men cry (and often did).

In the springtime, Mrs. Sanders would hold outdoor concerts, and the Nail Sisters were almost always her "headliner." We had the perfect spot for these songfests--a sloping, pine-straw-covered bank under a tall pine tree, whose rough bark had a yellow-chalk-eraser-dust-ring all the way around it. This shady bank was just past the playground, between the see-saws and monkey bars. (I hated those monkey bars.)

During one particularly warm spring concert, just as the Nail Sisters were either starting or finishing their fa-so-la concert (that part is fuzzy)...as the rest of us sat there trying to remember if Do-Re-Mi came before or after Fa-So-La...we saw something drop from the branches of the pine tree just above where the Nail Sisters and Mrs. Sanders were standing.

I believe Roger Nichols was the first to figure out what that "something" was, and in his loudest, most urgent voice, he yelled, "Snake!! Snake!!!"

We screamed and scattered.

But...what was most memorable was the speed and agility with which Mrs. Sanders removed herself from the premises of that snake. She passed great numbers of younger legs on her sprint up that pine-straw-covered bank. I've never seen a woman move so fast in all my life, especially one who had the build and speed of "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Survival instincts are a funny thing.

Once she came to her senses (which had a definite correlation to her distance from that snake), she kicked into Teacher-of-the-Year mode again...started counting heads...and asking, "Children...is everyone OK?"

By this time, all the boys were claiming they weren't scared of "a little ol' snake"; some girls were still screaming for effect; and only a couple of skinny climbers had to be talked down from the monkey bars. (I hated those monkey bars.)

But, every last one of us...including the Nail Sisters...survived to sing another day.

And that's a good thing.

In May, the Kimberly Elementary School always held its year-end concert and play. We would open the heavy, wooden doors between Mrs. Sanders and Mrs. Thomas' rooms. And moms and dads, grannys and grandpas, aunts and uncles, would come and squish their adult-sized bodies into those child-sized desks. (My daddy always opted for leaning against the chalkboard.)

Then, us kids would march up the steps to that stage and sing and act our little hearts out.

That particular year, we performed the apocalyptic "Chicken Little"--"the sky is falling, the sky is falling"--where I gave a somewhat convincing performance as the infamous Ducky Lucky.

But, of course, the harmonic Nail Sisters stole the show...and rightly so. I do wish you and Simon Cowell could hear them sing!

"Sing God a brand-new song! Earth and everyone in it, sing!
Sing to God—worship God!
Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea.
Take the news of his glory to the lost,
news of his wonders to one and all!
For God is great, and worth a thousand Hallelujahs!
....Bravo, God, Bravo!
Everyone join in the great shout: Encore!
....Then to your knees—everyone worship!...
Let's hear it from Sky,
with Earth joining in,
And a huge round of applause from Sea.
Let Wilderness turn cartwheels.
Animals, come dance.
Put every tree of the forest in the choir—
An extravaganza before God as he comes,
as he comes to set everything right on earth...."
(From Psalm 96, The Message)


  1. Karen, This just brought tears to my eyes. I think you pegged what I've been feeling lately. I have wanted for my kids the simplicies of life that we grew up with because they were so sweet. So much comes at them so fast and I think they are missing out on the joys of simply "square dancing" and that being enough..Karen

  2. Karen...the first post actually should have been posted on Do-Si-Do.....
    sister keven

  3. Karen, you are a wonderful story teller. I have enjoyed reading your blog...keep them coming.
    Love, GranKathy