Test 1, Day 4

England 458 and 233 beat South Africa 361 and 119 by 211 runs


When I was in 2nd grade and my sister in 4th (eight and 10 years old, respectively) my mother entered us in the school’s talent show. She picked out a song (“Side by Side” — a standard made famous by Kay Starr in the 50s), had me get the lyrics from my teacher (not an easy task in the days before the internet), wrote a little dance, made us outfits covered in patches like proper happy hoboes, and made us practice every afternoon after school.

The show was during the day and in front of the entire school plus all the parents of the kids performing. Our dad even skipped his golf game to come watch us.

I was nervous, but not too nervous, it would go fine and be over soon enough.

When it was our turn we got on the stage there in the school’s basement cafeteria and sang our song and did our dance. It was all going well until the very end of the song when one of us — I honestly don’t remember who — screwed the dance part up a bit and we stopped in the middle of performance. I said my sister’s name pleadingly and the crowd laughed. I was mortified. We finished the song and went back into the library which was doubling as the green room for the performers.

I was embarrassed and angry and upset. I stood back in the biography section crying and my sister came up to also crying and apologized over and over again. “I’m so, so sorry, Matt,” she wailed. I didn’t want to deal with her. I went back to my seat in the front part of the library and moped.

This was the 1980s and so the talent show had actual winners and losers. There would be three ribbons awarded: first place, second place and third place. I knew we had no shot after we had screwed up so I just stood on the stage with the other performers and tried not to look my parents in the eye. “I can’t believe my dad skipped his golf game for this. He is going to be so mad,” I thought to myself.

They announced the second and third place winners and then, shockingly, when giving out the first place ribbon, they said my name. And my sister’s name. We had won! Holy cow! It seemed the judges — including the wickedly strict first grade teacher Sister Ann Jerome — had thought the screw up was on purpose, that it was part of the act. But who cares? We had the first place ribbon!

I was beaming. My sister was relieved.

To this day I sing the song to myself on long bike rides and think of my sister and our victory that day.

Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money
Maybe we’re ragged and funny
But we travel along, singin’ our song
Side by side

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