Coming Home…

When I was a kid, I thought I was going to be a very famous actor. Not an actress, mind you. Annoying suffixes like –ess and –ette were reserved for women who were satisfied with an ordinary life. My life was going to be extraordinary.

My hometown didn’t have much. No gas station. No high school. The closest thing we had to a grocery store was the Circle K convenience store. For some reason there were two of those within a half mile on opposite sides of the same road.

As far as I was concerned, the only thing in Joshua Tree worthy of pride was the community theater, the Hi-Desert Playhouse Guild. The false front building was painted bright red and decorated to look like it came out of the old west.

Inside, there were springy gold seats for nearly 200 patrons. Egg crates that had been fireproofed and painted black lined the walls to improve the acoustics. Nothing filled me with more excitement than peeking out from behind those thick velvet curtains that always smelled of desert dust and waiting for my chance to perform.

My younger sister and brother are in the front row, all the way to the left.  My older brother is leaning on the rifle.  I'm leaning on the head of one of the Lester boys.  He does not look like he's enjoying it.

My younger sister and brother are in the front row, all the way to the left. My older brother is leaning on the rifle. I'm leaning on the head of one of the Lester boys. He does not look like he's enjoying it.

I was never the star. They only ever needed children for musicals, and I couldn’t sing a note. But, they’d always come back to the Given children, because we were well behaved and there were four of us. How else were they going to get four extras, all in one go?

Every summer the Playhouse Guild would put on special performances just for kids. One summer our director offered a dollar to the first person to perform some task. I don’t remember what it was, maybe selling tickets? Maybe shouting out the answer to some unanswerable question?

Whatever it was, I won the dollar. I took it home and pasted it into my scrapbook under the title, “The First Dollar I Ever Earned in Show Business.” I guess it didn’t matter that the dollar was not so much “earned” as it was “won.”

Today I received the first paycheck I’ve ever earned as a storyteller. It wasn’t a lot of money, but rest assured it was more than a dollar. I’ve become a bit more practical over the years. This check will be put into the bank, not in some scrapbook.

Don't you love how I skillfully hid all evidence of how much this check is worth?  I'm crafty that way.

Don't you love how I skillfully hid all evidence of how much this check is worth? I'm crafty that way.

Thinking about the check and that first dollar, it started me thinking about why I’m digging this storytelling thing so much. There’s something about the excitement I feel while I wait for my turn to perform. It feels a little like coming home…

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