One of the best parts about leading a #plotdrivenlife is that it has provided the ideal kick-in-the-pants to get out me of my house to enjoy some of the amazing attractions and experiences Missouri has to offer with some lovely people. This past week, I took an octogenarian to a musical, inspired by a book written by a Missouri native and fellow librarian!
Deacon Locke Went to Prom by Brian Katcher
What do you do when you’re too terrified to ask a girl to prom? You take your spunky grandmother instead!
Deacon Locke has lived with his grandmother, Jean, since his dad ran away to Amsterdam to escape some bookies. Deacon and Jean make a pretty great team, and they have plenty of laughs together, so after several promposals derail Deacon’s plans to take his crush to prom, Deacon decides to ask Jean to prom instead. After all, Jean didn’t get a chance to attend her own prom because her husband was fighting in the Vietnam War, so Deacon thinks his plan is perfect. And his life only improves when he meets the girl of his dreams, Soraya, while taking dancing lessons with Jean.
Deacon’s life takes a drastic turn, however, when he is reluctantly thrust into the limelight after a video of him and Jean dancing together at prom goes viral. The story of a teenager taking his grandma to prom is social media magic, it turns out. As Deacon’s fame grows, he realizes Jean is having more frequent episodes of memory loss, and he’s increasingly alarmed by her behavior. He’s only eighteen, after all. Can he handle all of this pressure by himself?
Author Brian Katcher has written five book for teens, including one of my all-time favorites, Almost Perfect, a very timely book about a teen boy growing up in rural Missouri who falls for a transgender girl. Two of his other books have made the Gateway Nominee shortlist, including The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak which is a Gateway Nominee for the 2017-18 school year. Read more about this year’s Gateways here. I also have to mention that Brian is super about visiting Missouri schools to discuss his books. He’s got a great sense of self-deprecating humor!
An Unusual Friendship
I don’t have living grandparents anymore, but I do have a stand-in named David. David and I had the chance to meet in 2004 when I was doing my student teaching with a saintly lady named Jean Weinstock. Jean immediately and fully embraced me, a barely twenty-one year old from Canada who had no nearby relatives. David was her adoring husband, and I got to know and love him, too. I was completely enthralled by Jean and David’s loving relationship and cultured life. They had season tickets to Rams football and Cardinals baseball games as well as season tickets to the St. Louis Symphony, Stages Theater, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Despite their active lives, they welcomed me into their family and showed me more kindness than I can ever repay.
Sadly, Jean passed away after a tragic accident in 2009. At her visitation, I can remember her daughter, Bess, asking if I would attend a symphony concert once in awhile with David. I was happy to do so, and since 2009, David and I have met several times a year to see movies, concerts, operas and ballets. One thing we had never done together before, however, was attend a performance at the outdoor Muny Theatre in St. Louis’ Forest Park.
In the spirit of Deacon Locke, I asked David, fifty years my senior, to accompany me to dinner and the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown at The Muny which is celebrating its 99th season this year. David was genuinely delighted to be my date for the evening and over dinner, he shared his memories of attending Muny performances in his youth. His childhood home was so close to Forest Park that he often walked to the theatre which he called “a summer hotspot” for famous entertainers. In the 1950s, he had friends who worked as ushers at the theatre, and he can remember them sneaking him in to sit in the box seats. These friends also made it possible for him to attend cast parties at swanky local hotels.
While David is no longer a sneaky little school boy, he has the same enthusiasm for The Muny today that he did as a teen. We both thoroughly enjoyed The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and David said he hopes this is the first of many performances we’ll see together at The Muny.
We’re an unusual pair, David and I, but he and Jean taught me that you don’t have to be related to be family.
Readers, take Deacon Locke’s actions to heart and consider making a date with an elder, relative or not. You may not blow up on YouTube, but you’ll likely be a star to your date.
Thanks for reading!