For obvious reasons, Suzy’s best friends call her Freckles. But not being permitted such liberties, we’ll call her Suzy, and the fragrance she inspired, we’ll call Freckles… here’s her story ~
Hear Almine share the fourth instalment of Freckles
Upon hearing of Mrs. Barnes’ unfortunate arrest for disturbing the peace, and unruly conduct, Mrs. Downsworthy was filled with self-recrimination. She blamed herself for being too harsh with poor ‘dear Susan’ for her rowdy behavior. After all, how guilty was she, when clearly it was an inherited trait? With the moral superiority of a Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Downsworthy chided herself: Shall the sins of the fathers be visited upon their children?
In a reckless moment, spurred on by a guilty conscience, Mrs. Downsworthy decided to include ‘dear Susan’ in the Christmas pageant. The play had been fully cast, but she thought there was always room for one more herald angel. She announced her decision in class. Make-up would be an appropriate way of hiding the freckles. Mrs. Barnes instructed Suzy that since herald angels didn’t wear braces, she was to refrain from smiling when in character.
Suzy was determined to perform her role with excellence. So even when one of the children suggested that Theodore McFarlane be cast as ‘Round John Virgin,’ she didn’t smile. Theodore, who had been left out of the play when the roles were cast, looked up hopefully. Mrs. Downsworthy, seeing the look on the boy’s face, said firmly, “I’ve decided to add one more sheep to the shepherd’s flock and Theodore would be perfect for that.”
Suzy’s only line was, “Lo, unto us a child is born!” She practiced it over and over, trying to achieve an appropriately solemn tone. She startled her parents by suddenly appearing at the most unexpected times and calling out, “Lo!” with a distant look in her eyes and an outstretched arm.
Suzy’s elation over her theatrical debut increased exponentially when Mrs. Downsworthy decided to suspend her in a harness, held up by ropes, for a dramatic entrance, illuminated by a spotlight. She would then be moved across the stage, as though flying, by the hidden trolley system above the stage.
After many late nights of practicing, Mrs. Downsworthy felt the gratification of announcing in the staff lounge that everything was coming along seamlessly. She remained undaunted by her colleague’s incredulous looks. “Even with Susan Barnes in the cast?” asked Mrs. Lewis, the music teacher. “Dear Susan has been misunderstood,” countered Mrs. Downsworthy. “As educators, it is our duty to take responsibility for molding the more spirited students. I am gratified to announce that under my guidance, she is taking her role very seriously.”
During dress rehearsal, Suzy’s resolve not to smile was severely tested, when McFarlane appeared in his sheep outfit, bedecked with tufts of cotton wool. Jimmy looked less than dashing in his father’s robe as he entered the stage as one of the wise men. He tripped over its length and knocked the turban off his head. Mrs. Downsworthy’s nerves were frayed. Would her masterpiece production be ready on time? But up high above the stage, the herald angel hung with a faraway look in her eyes as though she saw what mere mortals could not. At the end of the rehearsal, Mrs. Downsworthy patted her on the back and said, “Well done, dear Susan.” Suzy gave a gracious nod, but refused to smile.
Suzy was pleased with her outfit, constructed from celestial-looking white fabric with silver sparkles. Her untamable red hair was tied back, and a gold halo on her head proclaimed her holiness. Her mother had bought her a pair of new shoes after condemning her sneakers to an unmarked grave in the backyard. Twice before, Mrs. Barnes had tried to put Suzy’s sneakers in the garbage, but they had stubbornly made their way back to Suzy’s room. So extreme was her headstrong daughter’s attachment to her well-worn sneakers that she even tried to wear them with her angel outfit. But Mrs. Barnes, determined to win back some of her lost dignity in the community, resorted to desperate measures. All Suzy could find was a shiny pair of new shoes.
Suzy was amazed at how well her freckles had been hidden, and she was pleased at her appearance as she made her way to the stage on opening night. The children were milling about in an agitated state of nervous stage fright, and Mrs. Downsworthy had the difficult task of keeping track of her cast members. She found Joseph applying nose drops for his hayfever in the boy’s bathroom. Mary was crying because the wise men had, not so wisely, put a frog down the back of her dress…and one of the shepherd’s had forgotten his shoes.
Finally, the curtain lifted and the school’s assembly hall, which was packed with parents and siblings, reverberated with their applause. All went well, except for Joseph’s running nose. Bales of hay had been placed around the stage for the manger scene. This proved to be his undoing. Even his allergy medicine couldn’t stop his sneezes and sniffles throughout.
When it was time for the shepherds to move their flocks off stage, one sheep remained. Theodore McFarlane had fallen fast asleep and was gently snoring through Margaret’s rendition of the hymn, Silent Night. Suddenly an angel appeared, suspended above the stage, “Lo, for unto us a child is born!” came Suzy’s clear voice. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes squeezed each other’s hands encouragingly. The trolley moved Suzy across the stage and the effect was so dramatic, that the audience applauded again. But as she was moved to a spot above where a lost sheep was snoring away, her new shoe fell off her foot and hit Theodore McFarlane on the head.
He had been positioned near the front edge of the stage. Startled by being rudely awakened by an unidentified object striking him from above, he lurched forward and catapulted off the stage. He landed on the unfortunate music teacher and her piano with a loud, discordant noise. Mrs. Lewis tumbled backwards, and once again Theodore found himself pinning down an unlucky female. Mrs. Lewis was unaware of the events leading up to a large, fuzzy sheep falling on her and struggled frantically to try and get her assailant off of her.
The stagehands, two boys from the athletic team, left Suzy hanging in the air while they quickly lowered the curtain. Mrs. Downsworthy declared that she was going to faint, as two girls fanned her flushed face with their programs. “Quickly, Margaret, stand in front of the curtain and sing a song,” she said in a quivering voice. “But, there’s no piano accompaniment,” said Margaret. “Sing something that doesn’t need the piano then!”
The crowd was murmuring, uncertain of what to do. They quieted down at the site of Margaret standing in front of the curtain, still clutching baby Jesus in her arms. It was her sister’s doll that had been used for the production, and Margaret had salvaged it during the commotion. She was racking her brain for a song that didn’t need the piano and settled on one taught to her by her uncle Simon who is in the navy.
Margaret’s mother dropped her head in embarrassment as her daughter sang a risqué sailor’s song, ending with a clear, high voice: …”Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!”
Mrs. Lewis returned to school one week later with her left arm in a sling, and on crutches. Mrs. Downsworthy didn’t return at all. Suzy declared firmly that the life of an actress was not for her, and Mrs. Barnes bought her daughter another pair of sneakers. After a while, the citizens of Oakdale Valley returned to their daily chores, and the discussion of the Oakdale Valley Christmas play died down…