Our spotlight, the orange desk lamp

children dancing

It all started with a very small orange desk lamp. Our Smalley girl cousins had just moved back from Illinois, and were living next door in the rental home we called “the dairy farm house” for as long as I can remember.

We spent hours upon hours together, making up for lost time. These three girls were adorably cute, talented and filled with charisma.

In my 8-year-old mind, I felt certain they were straight from Hollywood.

Kim, the oldest of the three sisters, could sing with such lovely tone that it felt like all other sound came to a halt when she took to the stage.

And that’s where the orange lamp came in.

One of the bigger girls figured out we could wrap that little lamp in a towel, turn out all the other lights, and we had our very own spotlight.

With its perfectly round opening at the top, as long as we kept the towel held just right, it was as perfect as a full moon shining on all of the talent.

One of us would hold the wrapped light, pointing it toward the “stage” which was usually one of our beds.

We had been told “no jumping on the beds!” but no one ever said we couldn’t put on a musical Broadway production atop any one of them.

It was no competition, really — Kim qualified instantly for the lead role. Connie, Krissy and I were the youngest of the group, so we were only given limited stage time. We often created the “commercials” between shows.

My big sisters played many stellar parts, as complete plays were created. There were chorus line kicks, happy and sappy dialogue, broken-hearted chapters filled with tears and agony, even a solemn reading once in awhile.

We were part Broadway, part small-town chapel. The spotlight shining in the darkened room made us all feel like we had really hit the big time.

The only thing that stopped our production involved that orange lamp that started it all.

One day it felt hot in our hands and smelled like burned rubber.

“Turn it off! Unplug it!” I remember the older, wiser girls yelling. The music stopped that day, and we all were too scared to ever try it again.

When Kim was perhaps just out of high school, she and a small group of friends with whom she had been performing made a record.

The Tears of Joy group harmonized beautifully with music that was impressive and inspirational. I felt enormously proud of my sweet cousin. I might have even claimed that we once performed a grand show together.

I left a few facts out like I was merely the one holding the rigged-up spotlight, and the stage was one of our messy beds….


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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