Bringing My Darkness Into the Light

The Glass Menagerie (

My Real Memoir

Whatcha gonna do when the crick runs dry?

My superpower since third grade had been my ability to tell funny stories and do goofy voices. And ninth grade looked to be no different. After all, I’d had ‘em rolling in the aisles with my high school stage debut. But I had a dark side. I’d long suppressed the sense, stemming partly from an unresolved rift with my father, that love was conditional and acceptance depended upon my constantly proving I was clever and worthy. Whether this came before my recurring nightmare about wandering on a diseased, unstable landscape searching for an unattainable object, I don’t know. It also didn’t help that I had undiagnosed OCD, which a decade later would blossom into near-constant anxiety. Still, at the time I was upbeat and seemingly carefree.

But the darkness was there.

There was a darkness in our culture too. The greatest anti-war protests in American history had begun that year, and the civil rights movement was reaching its apex. As a paperboy, I’d seethed at the violence toward African-Americans, and cheered when Dr. King led the Selma Marches.

Several role models, particularly the soon-to-graduate cast of The Glass Menagerie, our second play of the year, each in their own way, encouraged me to express my feelings. Our school’s master actor, Bob, brilliantly inhabited the role of the play’s brooding poet/narrator. After seeing his performance, I felt like a shallow clown. But he and Terrie, who’d shone as his volatile, neurotic mother, each took me aside and told me in so many words, “There’s more to you than that, Mitch — so don’t be afraid to explore it all.” And finally, beautiful Barbara, heartbreaking as the delicate Laura, as previously mentioned, made me feel downright lovable.

And then there was Larry, the play’s “gentleman caller,” who’d also had the lead in our musical Bye Bye Birdie. Larry would bring his guitar and play folk songs during lunch time in the Drama room. My favorite was a slowed-down version of The Crawdad Song. I’d been stalled in learning to play, so I brought my guitar and asked Larry to teach me. He showed me my first real chords, and encouraged me not to just play, but to sing.

Later, experimenting with minor and diminished chords, I found my way into the song’s bluesy heart as it progresses from the swagger of “Yonder come a crawdad struttin’ around” to “whatcha gonna do when the crick runs dry…sit around and watch them old crawdads die.” Thinking first about my own pet crawdads as a kid, and then learning about the Mississippi levee-building slaves who’d reinvented an earlier version of the song, I began to cry. Music, it seemed, was the key to bringing my own darkness…

Into the light.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Bringing My Darkness Into the Light

  1. I have lived my life through music, each tune for a different mood, but it has always cheered me up, even on the days I have felt sad .🎼🎵

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Wow! Real and Raw for sure but hopeful!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Discover and Explore says:

    You are very in touch with your past, and your self insight is a beautiful thing.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I really like your connections to so many parts of your childhood story. (in blue).To connect these so well and tell the story was special.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. That’s a good superpower to have. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I fell in love with The Glass Menagerie when I was in high school. Wonderful on the page and even better on the stage.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. So, being in school plays really expanded your horizons and provided some distraction from the darkness you felt. Having drama friends who were kind and helpful must have been encouraging, too. No wonder you loved drama so much!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Piano girl says:

    Honest and beautiful! Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Where would we be without the arts in our lives. I would definitely be a different person. Like you, I remember the school plays, especially Our Town. I wore my mother’s actual wedding dress and walked down the aisle of the school auditorium to The Wedding March. My parents sat in the audience, crying, as if it were my real wedding day.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What a powerful story. Since you have the ability to do voices, have you ever narrated an audiobook?

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s