When I was 15, my parents bought a house and my father bought a ping pong table. I didn’t know how to play, and my sister wasn’t interested, so the table went unused except for an occasional game with my father. I left to go to a music camp a few weeks later. Although I played the piano unenthusiastically and wasn’t interested in immersing myself in music, it meant I’d be away from my family for a month and that was worth a lot.
On the first full day of camp we had to audition for lessons, orchestra, and ensembles. I wasn’t skilled enough to play badly intentionally so in addition to my private lesson, I was signed up for four-hand piano ensemble. I argued that I wasn’t good enough to play with another person on the same piano, but the instructor, mistaking honesty for humility, assured me I would learn.
Desperate for something to do besides play the piano, I wandered into a building I hadn’t seen before, into a large room where a man was sitting next to a ping pong table, looking as lonely as I felt. He brightened up when he saw me. “Want to play?”
In 1978, as part of my work in the University of Delaware’s theatre department, I created a play for children based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Snow Queen. The main human characters are Gerda, Gerda’s Grandfather, Kai, and the Snow Queen.
The story is well-known and a lot of students turned out for the auditions. I asked each person what mattered most to them in the story and why they wanted to play a particular part. Some shrugged, not prepared to answer with any depth. A few loved the story and wanted to be in the production. I chose the most talented students who had clearly thought about their participation.
In April 1959 I answered a newspaper ad written by an internationally renowned folk-dance teacher. He was looking for people to join him in teaching folk dancing in a variety of European countries for 11 weeks during the summer. I’d been longing to go to Europe. This seemed a great way to go since I’d been folk dancing for years. What made it possible to apply was that his timetable coincided with my public-school teaching schedule. I responded immediately.
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.