October 21, 2007
by Shannon Des Roches Rosa
Age 9 at the time
By the time I got out of first grade, I had figured out that I must be special, because teachers always told me I was Fantastic! and Amazing! just because I was a good reader. This was like telling me I was good at breathing, because, duh, of course I was good at reading. It was my favorite thing to do; it was just what I did. However, these adult reactions made me suspect that I had other super special secret traits that only certain adults could see, and most importantly, that I didn't have to put any effort into.
Other kids didn't appreciate my specialness. I knew I was supposed to be interested in them, though, so I did silly things to make them pay attention to me. In second grade, I would curl up and pretend to cry in front of the big, cool, fifth grade girls, so that they would come over to coo and offer comfort. In third grade, I would chase boys around the playground, pin them down, and kiss them in front of a crowd of giggling girls who didn't have the nerve to give chase themselves.
I still didn't understand how to play with the other kids in any sort of natural way, but that was okay -- they were rarely as interesting as my books, anyhow. In fact most kids who came over to play would, after about an hour, hunt down my mom and complain that they wanted to go home because I was just sitting in my room, reading.
When I was in fourth grade, my mom took me to try out for a kids' trivia TV game show called The Joker's Wild. I thought this was a great idea; if I was on TV, then the other kids would have to acknowledge my supremacy!
My brothers coached me on TV and cartoon trivia for the entire week before my try out: "What does Foghorn Leghorn always say?" "Where does Yogi Bear live?" Since I spent as much time in front of the tube as I did reading, the TV-centric written screening was no problem. I was asked back for a second round, including an interview with the show's staff.
I remember walking into a big office suite, with an oval table surrounded by leather executive chairs, each one containing a person in a fancy suit. I had never seen people like them before, except, of course, on TV. But I knew that if any adults could sense my secret special talents, it would be them.
The first question they asked me was, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
My answer: "A singer!" (I didn't even know if I could sing, but I loved Olivia Newton John so very, very much.)
They then asked, "Can you sing for us right now?"
Me, aghast: "NO!" (Couldn't they just sense that I would be a great singer?)
I was so embarrassed and perturbed by the failure of their specialness detecting powers that I slumped under the table. Somehow I exited the room.
Somehow they never called me to be on the show.
And somehow the other kids at my school continued to ignore my secret specialness. But that was okay; I still had my books.
In fifth grade I hooked up with my missing pieces: Michael and Miho. They weren't interested in how I was special and different; they were interested in how much I was like them. Which was, to my surprise, the way to form an intense, volatile, yet wonderful friendship.
(And I would be remiss if I didn't add that that same Michael introduced me to my husband, and is my oldest child's godfather.)