This story is by E.R. Holmbeck, who was part of Write Summer camp for young writers. You can find all the stories by Write Summer writers here. If you’re a young write age 7 to 14 and would like to participate in Write Summer camp, you can find out all the details here.
The Melody of June
Love. The four letters are the trigger to the heart of the world. But what does it really mean? This thought swooped through my head many times during the mysteries of my life. When I was born into this world, I little knew that I had developed Down syndrome. I had kept the conclusion that I was alike with everyone else, until I turned about six years old. My mother had been talking to a friend of hers and I overheard the conversation.
As I stared into the mirror, I saw tragedy. I never really got over my differences until I was much older. The word love rang throughout my brain like bells of question marks. Every night I would cry myself to sleep to the thought that I had disappointed my family with the reasoning of my disabilities. I was a heartbroken child, shattered in many pieces on the floor. My emptiness covered me in sorrowful expressions as I walked in the halls of bitterness. There was never a time that my parents looked to me without a hint of dispel within their eyes. I was swimming in a pool of dismal destruction throughout my days. Some days I would imagine dying. I thought it would be so peaceful to not bother anyone with the plain sight of my body. I would be alone, where no one would see disgrace in me, for they couldn’t see me.
By the time I was seven, my parents enrolled me into a private school for girls. We learned so many things in our class. Eventually, by the time I was 10 years old, I even learned to read and write! It was like a dream come true!
Although I was happy, the confusion of love still rang through me. I knew that no one liked me. I often thought that I was a mistake. My mind burst with bubbles such as, “Surely God could have made one mistake! How could I be a part of this world?” or, “Will anyone ever like me?” But the most puzzling thought would come to me almost every second of my life. I would always be looking for answers, though it was as if the problem was unsolved. The riddle was: “What is Love?”
“See you tomorrow girls! One more day till school is out for the summer!” said Ms. May as the afternoon bell rang.
As I went outside the school doors, I looked around for my parents’ car. Nothing. I sat under a large maple tree as I waited. It was a long time before my parents arrived. Everyone left the school, including my teachers. It was after 5:00 p.m. when my parents picked me up.
When I got home, I hung my backpack in the entry-way closet, and raced towards the dinner table.
“Wait a minute, June. Do you ever have any manners? I don’t want your gross hands touching all of my good food. It is called ‘wasting’,” said my mom, meaning for me to wash my hands.
For supper, there was chicken and mashed potatoes. Once my plate was filled with food, I grabbed the salt and drenched it on my mashed potatoes.
“Hey June, would you like some mashed potatoes with your salt?” said my dad.
“Thanks, but I already have some.”
My dad laughed, and so did my mom; though I hadn’t known why.
After supper, I went to my room upstairs, pounced on my bed and closed my eyelids. The sunset sank below the rippling waves of the hills. The last thought I had before I fell asleep was: “What is love?”
“Gather together girls! Today is a special day, for you get to pick your summer activity!” said Ms. May.
It was almost the end of the day, and Ms. May made us line up in the hallway, so that we would take turns picking our activities. At first, I was the 7th person in line, but pretty soon I was the 1st. It was then my turn to pick. There were so many options! There was soccer, basketball, choir, swim team, art, and softball. I decided that I would do art, for it seemed to me the most fun.
It was decided that the next morning at 9:00 a.m. sharp, I would meet my art teacher and all the other kids that chose art in the hallway. Then, we would march to the art room and start creating. I was deliciously excited, for not only did I love art, but I would maybe have the chance to make a friend, or at least find someone that cared about me. The thought came back again. What is love?
The next morning, I woke up to the sunrise peeking over the purple hills of the east, painting a wonderful rainbow of colors dancing across the sky. It was a beautiful morning; one I hadn’t seen before. Every other day I woke up to misery and sentiment, but today, I was comforted with the hope of finding someone to care for me. It was a new day, and I declared to make the most of it.
My parents drove me to school, with that same old face again, doubt. My parents always doubted me, but today was going to be a good day, and I wouldn’t let anything hold me back.
It was almost 9:00 a.m., so I raced to the hallway, with a new attitude. Though once I got to the hallway, my confidence faded. I was back to being the shy and childish June once again. There was a large class, and I couldn’t bring myself to even speak. I couldn’t even say, “Good morning” to my teacher. The real June was back.
“Ok class. Let’s get moving,” said Mrs. Aden, our new art teacher.
We soon entered the art room, or, at least what I thought to be the art room. As I walked in, I realized that I was in the wrong class. This was choir.
“Mrs. Aden?” I said, “I signed up for art.”
“Oh, I am sorry sweetie, it must have been mixed up. Maybe you wrote your name on the wrong list. Don’t worry, I am sure you will enjoy choir just as much.”
This day was not turning out to be as great as I thought it was. Now, I would have to humiliate myself more! Who knows what I sound like; I haven’t even tried to sing before! Wait. That’s it! I had the best idea. I would mouth the words while the others sang. They surely wouldn’t have noticed.
“All right girls. Please sit down,” said Mrs. Aden.
It was a large room we were in. Though, it was kind of empty. There were chairs just enough for us to sit in, and a large stage up ahead.
“We are going to do auditions today. Each one of you girls gets to pick a song to sing, and whoever does the best will get their own solo. And remember, we are all winners,” declared Mrs. Aden, “First up is……Miss Annabelle.”
Annabelle went on stage as if nobody was watching. I wished that I had her confidence. She sang “Wonderful World.” Annabelle had a low, raspy voice; it fit perfectly with the song.
“That was amazing Annabelle. Now, let’s bring up…….Miss June.”
I froze. I had to go onstage and sing! And on top of that, everybody was watching me! I was already shy when talking, and now singing?
“Miss June, are you, all right?” asked Mrs. Aden.
I was terrified. No doubt about it. But I had to do what I had to do, so I went up on that stage. I could never sing facing the people, so I turned around. I didn’t know what to sing, until I remembered a song that I loved. When I cried myself to sleep every night, the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” would come to my head. It had always comforted me. I had that hope that there is a place that I will be happy for the rest of my life; I just had to find it. The words just came out of my mouth, and before I knew it, the whole class was cheering for me. It felt wonderful! I was actually appreciated!
“Wow! Miss June, you sound like an angel from heaven!” said Mrs. Aden with a smile spread across her face.
The other girls finished their auditions, and Mrs. Aden was about to pick the soloist.
“Our soloist for this summer’s choir is…June!”
Radiant beams of joy lit up my face as I heard this. As I sat back into my seat, I was comforted that I belonged somewhere. I was comforted that someone cared about me. I no longer felt like an outcast. This incident gave me hope and compassion, and I knew I wasn’t alone.
The next morning, I awoke to the birds whispering many melodies throughout the dancing trees of delight. This morning at 9:00, I was going to go to choir again. Today, we were going to learn our songs. My teacher said that I could pick my solo, so I decided on the same song I auditioned with, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The first song we practiced was in Latin, then we had one in English, then in Spanish and Hebrew, and then I was going to do my solo. We kept practicing and practicing some more, and within a couple weeks we were ready.
“This was the fastest our school has ever prepared for our choir performance! You all did amazing! I am so proud of you all. We scheduled our performance for the community on June 25th, and we will perform on stage in our very own school auditorium,” said Mrs. Aden.
Suddenly, stage fright came upon me. In one week, I was going to go on stage. And not just in front of our teacher, but in front of our whole community!
“Mrs. Aden,” I said, “I don’t think I can do the solo anymore.”
Mrs. Aden replied in a confused tone, “Child, what is the matter?”
“I can’t go on stage in front of the whole school. They will make fun of me.”
“June, they will not make fun of you, they will cheer for you; just like the whole choir did for you! June, I have never seen anything like your talent. You are truly one of a kind.”
Mrs. Aden’s comforting words let me know that I wasn’t alone. I was loved. I no longer had to worry about anything, for with my team, I was strong. I would go on that stage with my chin up and face towards the audience.
The week had passed, and I was standing backstage, knowing that I wouldn’t have to be scared; I had the whole group to help me.
“I know you will do great, June; you just have to believe in yourself,” said Mrs. Aden.
I was just about to go on stage, before my teacher told me one more thing.
“Oh, and let me remind you June, we all love you. You are amazing. And not just because of your beautiful voice, but because you are your beautiful self.”
A bright light shone inside of me. I was delighted. Someone actually loved me! I truly wasn’t alone! I was free! Free to be myself.
I went up on stage and I sang my very best. I wasn’t afraid to be myself. When I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” love flowed out of me. I found the answer to my little riddle: What is love? Well, love is the freedom to be yourself. It is the answer to everything in this world. Love is compassionate, love is patient, and love is kind. Knowing these things, I am loved.