Last Wednesday night our branch president (pastor) called and asked us to speak in church. Dick, smart man that he is, asked me if that was okay BEFORE accepting for the family. He told Sally she would be speaking too, and Sally told me all about it the next morning as we got ready to leave for school. She was very grown-up about her assignment. She only had four days to prepare, she said, and she wanted to make sure one of us could help her write her talk and stand by her as she gave it; she was apprehensive but not afraid or desirous of shirking.
I told her to think about our topic while she was at school and try to come up with an appropriate scripture story. We wrote her talk that afternoon (I confess I did the typing). Then Sally practiced, and practiced, and practiced. I was afraid that now that she can read she wouldn’t try to memorize her talk, and as everyone knows, the absolute worst thing to do when speaking publicly is to read your words. If you’re an emotive reader and/or can intersperse lightning glances at your paper with long stretches of eye contact (what I do) it might be okay, but for a new-ish reader still working on her expression, energy, and enunciation, it would have been death.
But at first memorizing that whole long thing seems impossible. So I promised that she could have her paper on Sunday, as long as she’d keep practicing in the meantime. I showed her how to pick out key words and try giving her talk using just those. That’s maybe a hard concept for a six-year-old. I had her read it out loud over and over. Finally, I had her look at each sentence but look up to say them.
On Sunday morning I had her say it a few times for the video camera. At church we sat on the front row and Dick and I scrambled to make final notes on our talks during the opening hymn. Spot was insane, trying to get on the stand, tripping up the Sacrament passers. Our pews are the most uncomfortable church seats known to man. They are too high, even for a normally-heighted person like myself, and they slant up towards the knee, so the middle of your thigh is bent around the edge as your feet dangle heavily.
During the announcement of speakers, Sally whispered to me that she wanted to go up by herself, no paper. I said ok. Those few seconds it took her to get to the podium, get the microphone adjusted, and begin were the scariest of my entire life. Well, except for that time I thought some guy was following me from the Subway in New York.
Sally did the most fantastic job. Here she is, Miss America: