“Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star!”
An embarrassing onstage incident.
Parental spanking of child.
I’ve included the following prompts in this story:
It was just a school performance, just an elementary school show, and yet the auditorium was packed, and not only with parents and other relatives of the performers, for this promised to be more interesting, more spectacular, than the usual school show. The local paper had even sent a reporter to cover it.
And now the time arrived for what was expected to be the grand finale Nine-year-old Lydia Rose Andrews, whose unusually beautiful voice had already made her locally famous, walked onstage and begin to sing, acapella, “Mi Chiamano Mimi” from Puccini’s “La Boheme”.
And then, without any warning, the incident so many people would be talking about for days thereafter occurred. A stream ran down Lydia Rose’s legs and puddled the stage.
Some members of the audience gasped. Others snickered and tittered.
The reporter took out his pad and pen and began to write, in shorthand, the article he would cleverly, or so he thought, call “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star!” The article that would cause Lydia Rose’s parents to cancel their subscription. The article that would lead to his being fired for “pouring salt on a little girl’s wounds.”
And meanwhile, the child kept on singing, seeming to ignore what was happening. The only difference was that, before the accident, she had been looking at the audience. Now she looked at nobody, not even her parents.
And when her song was over, she ran offstage, completely forgetting the curtsy she had been told to finish with, and had practiced so carefully.
“Going to the bathroom?” one woman jeered.
A man responded, just as loudly, “Too late!”
The director, obviously flustered and embarrassed, appeared onstage.
“I sincerely apologize on behalf of Lydia Rose Andrews for that unpleasant incident,” she said, “and I assure you that I will have a few things to say to that young (she hesitated and cleared her throat) lady.”
One of the men in the audience hollered, “Ladies don’t pee onstage!”
And Lydia Rose heard it all. She slipped outside and went home, by herself, against one of the strictest Andrews family rules, if not the very strictest. And when Lydia Rose broke a serious rule, she usually got spanked with a ping-pong paddle.
Her parents almost panicked when they didn’t find her backstage with the other performers, but then Mr. Andrews said, “She probably just went home.”
“By herself?” Mrs. Andrews was horrified.
Mr. Andrews was right. They found Lydia Rose at home. And not long afterwards, the child, now wearing thin, peach-colored pajamas, sat on her bed between her parents. “I know I embarrassed you. You must be so ashamed of me.”
“Darling, it was an accident, that’s all,” her mother said. “We could never be ashamed of you for having an accident, any more than we’d be ashamed if you slipped and fell.”
“The only thing you did wrong was going home by yourself without even letting anyone know,” her father added.
“I’m sorry. Are you going to punish me for that?”
Her father answered, “Ordinarily, you would be spanked for taking off like that, but not this time.”
Lydia Rose looked, not relieved, but… could it be?… disappointed. Perhaps, deep down, the child wanted to be punished; perhaps, despite what her parents had said, she felt not only ashamed of, but guilty over, her ruined performance.
It is often difficult, if not impossible, even for adults to analyze their feelings, much less so for a child of only nine.
Her parents exchanged understanding looks.
“Do you think you should be spanked for going home by yourself?” her father asked gravely.
Lydia Rose nodded and whispered, “Yes.”
“All right, then,” said her mother. “it was very naughty, very wrong of you to take off like that.”
“Goodnight, Honey,” her father said, kissing her and turning to leave the room. In their family, spankings were the mother’s business; Mr.Andrews had always been glad they weren’t his. But before he went out, he turned to his wife and mouthed the words, “Not too hard.”
Mrs. Andrews went to get the paddle.
She returned a few minutes later and said, “Because what you did was so serious, I’m going to give you twenty spanks.”
Lydia Rose had never before gotten more than twelve, but then again she had never before done anything so seriously wrong.
Her mother sat down on the bed and gently pulled the child over her lap, adding sternly, “Don’t you ever take off by yourself like that again! That’s very dangerous, especially at night!”
And she gave Lydia Rose a stinging, but not too hard, spanking.
Lydia Rose usually struggled and squirmed when she was paddled; this time she lay perfectly still, only yelping “OW!” at each spank.
Not only was that the first and only time Lydia Rose didn’t struggle and squirm. It was also the first and only time she didn’t cry.
“Two more,” her mother said after the eighteenth spank.
Lydia Rose knew from past experience that those last two would be the hardest.
And then it was over, and Lydia Rose was released from her mother’s lap, tucked in, and kissed. She fell asleep with her bottom still smarting, but with the incident onstage forgotten, at least for the time being.
And now her parents lay in their bed, talking quietly.
“This has been quite a night,” Mr. Andrews said.
“I know. I hated having to spank her after what happened at the performance.”
“And I hated hearing it, but she needs to know that no matter how upset she is, she can’t do a dangerous thing like walking home by herself.
“I just hope,” said Mrs. Andrews, “she can forget about what happened at the performance.”
“Yes, or perhaps even better, laugh about it someday.”
And both parents hoped it wouldn’t stop her from using her extraordinary gift for singing.
That was more than seventy years ago.
Lydia Rose Andrews didn’t stop singing; she grew up to be an internationally renowned opera star.
But she stipulated that there was one opera she would never appear in, one opera whose songs she would never perform.