Sunday, February 15, 2009

Miss America Pageant

There she goes! Miss America! (are you singing it in your head)

I was grocery shopping yesterday when out of the blue I remembered this hilarious experience I had when I was in high school. So, I thought I'd blog about it.

Some background is necessary for this entry, so you don't think I was a TOTAL nerd, although that title is not the least bit insulting to me. I was a nerd (and a total jock).

Anyway, remember 1984 when Charlene Wells won the Miss America pageant? This was back when people still watched the pageant. It was the year after the previous winner had some moral issues, so getting a Mormon to win was a statement of sorts. I remember watching that with my friends and cheering and jumping up and down when she won. I was 11 years old.

About two years later, I met Miss Wells at a luncheon for the wives and daughters of General Authorities. Her dad was a member of the seventy, as was mine. We were kindred spirits. She sang and played this piano that was made out of glass. After the program, I also played that piano for a few of the stragglers. I was already walking in her footsteps. Just a few more years until I was Miss America.

Well, in 1987, our family moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We started attending Lincoln High School, a private school that was for expatriates and a few wealthy Argentines. Well, guess who also attended that very high school about a decade earlier? Charlene Wells! Her family had lived in the same place, went to the same ward, and the same school. I remember going to Geometry and seeing her framed picture on the wall with a personalized message to Mr. Czarnik (my math teacher). It was like I was destined to be like her -- :) (I do hope you are reading this with a bit of sarcasm in your voice -- I never REALLY thought I'd be Miss America). But, you got to admit -- we had a lot in common.

Anywho, fast forward to 1988. We were taking our family vacation with Elder L. Tom Perry and his wife. It was several weeks -- coinciding with stake conferences and mission conferences and all sorts of meeting that made up our typical family vacation. We were staying in a mission home in the southern part of Chile. It was a day FULL of meetings (I think they were interviewing for a new Stake President). All the adults were gone and my sister Viki and I were stuck at this mission home with nothing to do and nowhere to go. So, we decided to entertain ourselves by putting on our own Miss America Pageant.

So, using our limited wardrobe (we were on vacation), we proceeded to divide up all 50 states between the two of us. We created a 'runway' and would walk down in our outfits singing "My Country ‘Tis of Thee” over and over and over again to represent each state. We’d sing it in a southern accent if we were on Georgia or Alabama. We’d sing it in an eastern accent if we were from New York or Jersey. You get the idea. I doubt we really sang it 50 times, but we probably got close. We ‘judged’ each other each time, on talent (the song) & outfit. Like I said, we were bored, and still fascinated with the whole Miss America thing.

Well, at some point during our ‘pageant’, we were called down to dinner. We went down and noticed that Elder Perry was in the kitchen. As we started to talk over the dinner table, he asked us, “What exactly were you two doing? I kept hearing you sing the same song over and over!” I was SO embarrassed. Come to find out, Elder Perry wasn’t feeling well and had come home hours earlier to try and rest. We didn’t know this, and we were making all sorts of noise singing the SAME song over and over. Poor guy, he didn’t sleep at all! (Here is a side note – while this is a humorous happening, it also speaks loads about Elder Perry’s character – he could have EASILY asked us to quiet down or asked someone to make us stop so he could rest, but he let us go on and on and on just down the hall from where he was trying to rest. Remember that next general conference – he is a wonderful, caring man!)

My parents were quite embarrassed for us, as was to be expected. We apologized profusely and were quiet as could be the rest of the night. He was so kind to us. I remember the very next day we set up a volleyball net in the mission home’s back yard and we played volleyball with him. He is quite tall, and athletic, so he always won, but we had a great time. We also played a little one-on-one basketball. Basketball was my life back then, and from then on, every time my dad spoke to Elder Perry, he would ask about me and my basketball ‘career’. In fact, when we left Argentina a few years later and moved to Bountiful, Elder Perry wrote me a personal letter wishing me well on our move and saying that he had warned Bountiful that I was coming and that their B-ball team would never be the same. (It was. I was too late to make the team).

So, that is part I of the story. The second part isn’t quite so long, but still funny! Several years later, I was a senior at Bountiful High School. My Spanish teacher nominated me to be the Sterling Scholar for Foreign Languages. (Probably because I actually did speak Spanish and already taken and passed both the AP Spanish and AP Spanish Literature tests). In Utah, the Sterling Scholar program is where a student from each high school is nominated by faculty in about 12 categories (Foreign Language, Science, Math, History, etc). Each of us had to create a portfolio with our academic, social, and other accomplishments and send them in. We were judged against all the other students in our same category. About 10 were chosen to go onto the State level, and then one is declared a winner and given a scholarship.

So, all of a sudden, I had about 2 weeks to create this huge portfolio. One of the sections was 5 letters of recommendation from people in the community. My mom suggested I ask Elder Perry to write one of the letters. So, I did. Pretty soon, the deadline to turn in our portfolios was up and I hadn’t heard back from Elder Perry – just from his secretary who said he would love to write a letter. So, we knew one was coming from him, so I stuck in the letter (without re-reading it) that he had written a few months earlier when we moved back to Utah, thinking I would simply replace it with the real one when it came.

Well, I forgot to replace it. I made it to the State level and that required this intensive interview process with one of the judges. I was so nervous. It was about an hour-long interview and things were going quite well. Then, the judge said, “I’m not a member of the Mormon faith, but one of my colleagues is, and he said that this Elder Perry who wrote one of your recommendation letters is a big deal in your church.” I replied that he was, and that he was a friend of the family. Then, he said, “So, I read this letter he wrote, and I want to know – when were you in the Miss America Pageant?” The blank look on my face let him know I really had no idea what he was talking about.

He showed me the letter from my portfolio and at the bottom of Elder Perry’s letter was written, “P.S. Please, NO MORE Miss America Pageants!” He then proceeds to ask me, “When were you in the Miss America Pageant and why have we not heard all about it in your portfolio. That is a big achievement!”

I think I was ready to fall off my chair. This was supposed to be such a formal interview and I was… stunned into silence and trying hard to not LAUGH. I finally admitted that my sister and I had made up our own pageant years ago and it was kind of a personal joke between Elder Perry and I. I don’t think the answer appeased him, but oh well. I didn’t win State – the girl who won spoke 7 languages. I’m sure that factor was the winning ticket. That, and the fact that she hadn’t participated in any Miss America Pageants!


Melissa said...

Too funny! You know you could've been Miss America. Its never too late for Mrs. America you know.

Dawn said...

That is absolutely hilarious! It sounds exactly like something I would do with my sister.

And I love the part II, and the blank stare trying to figure out what he was talking about!

Wendy said...

What an awesome recount! I remember meeting Elder Perry with you at a BYU football game. Very impressed.

I idolized Sharlene Wells and met her at Smith's grocery store once (well, saw her from a distance).

Good times.

Stop killing me at Scrabble you sterling scholar you.

Marilyn said...

I still laugh every time I hear this story. Thanks for sharing it.

VikiViki said...

Ok - it's just funny how we remember different things about that vacay! I completely recall that when we concluded the ceremony - we had it down to the final 10 contestnats, and then it ended up being a perfect tie - and there were 2 Miss America's crowned - so we could both win. As we announced that, we started cheering for each other and hugging each other, and then we all of a sudden heard this loud clapping - and we stopped and stared at each other, because we thought we were alone. We opened the door - and it was Elder Perry standing there clapping for us! Then I think he was the one that brought it up at dinner as we were too embarrased to tell dad!
Too fun.
Also - the year that I was on the basketball team with you in Argentina pretty much sums up both of our personalities with the awards we were given. Jennie: "MVP". Viki: "Has fun on the court"!! You always were Miss America to me, Jennie.

BoĊĦtjan, Bojana, Zala in Kaja said...

You have so many fun and interesting memories I believe you could actually right a book - which I hope you will some day!

GrGrGr said...

A great post Jennie. Why do my memories put the "Miss America Pageant" on a two-day spread? Didn't you start it on the night we spent at that absolutely horid "hotel" we stayed at mid-way along the boat trip through the lakes between Arg and Chile -- you know where the horse flies were so huge you couldn't stand to be outside? We have some pretty good photos of the volleyball and basketball fun! I'm so glad you girls are recording your special memories.
Love, Mom

Janell said...

I love your story-telling skills... and this is a great one! :)

Susan said...

Hilarious Jennie! So who's, your mom, or sister, or a combination of all? I love doozy memories like that, and you did a great job relaying it! Eck

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