Annie was so excited when she got the call from the TV station in Nashville to let her know that Eddie had been chosen to be on Romper Room for two weeks. It was a live kids show that was produced at WSIX in Nashville. She had not in her wildest imagination thought that it would be two weeks from hell. Jack told her not to let Eddie do it. “You know he tells everything. He simply can’t help it.” She told all of her relatives, friends and neighbors of his upcoming stardom. She was so proud that HER Eddie (note,Jack had had nothing to do with it) was going to be on television. He was just so cute and charismatic, destined for Show Biz she thought.
The first day should have given her a clue. She got her daughter off to school, dressed Eddie and drove for 45 minutes to Channel 6. Eddie slept most of the way there and his clothes looked like an unmade bed by the time they arrived. Of course in those days there were no car seats so his place of choice to sit was on the floor of the back seat where he had a run in with some tar that came off someone’s shoes. He had managed to get it all over his new shirt. Annie spit on her hanky and tried to wipe it off. The spot became blacker and bigger and it had to be right in the front. It seem to grow, the more she spit on it.
“Never mind, “ she thought to herself. “we are almost late.” They went in the studio to meet Miss Norma and all the other lucky children who had been chosen to be on Romper Room. (She looked the other kids over and declared in her mind that her Eddie was the most handsome and the smartest child there. He was the tallest and by far the youngest having just had his fourth birthday two months ago, which meant he was barely eligible to be on the show.) Eddie was delighted with all the new toys that he saw and ran exuberantly into the room and began to play with a big red fire truck.
“Come on Eddie,” Miss Norma said, “you need to go sit at the table now.”
“But I want to play fireman.”
“You can do that later, Eddie, but right now we are sitting at the tables like good Do Bees.”
He began to cry. Annie went over and whispered into his ear, “Eddie, if you do exactly what Miss Norma tells you to do, you can have a whole bag of M & M’s when it’s over.”
“A whole bag?”
“Yes, a whole bag.”
“A big bag,” he began to negotiate.
“Yes, a big bag,” she said. She would’ve given him the moon at that moment in order to make him behave.
“Okay,” he said and went running happily off to sit at the table.
From her vantage point in the viewing room, she heard Miss Norma ask, “Do any of you have a dog?”
She began to pray. “Please God don’t let him raise his hand.”
She guessed that she had prayed too little too late for he was already flailing his arm and hand in the air.
“Me, me. I have one.”
“Would you like to bring it to Romper Room on Friday, Eddie? It is National Rabies Week.”
Again Annie began to pray, “Say no, say no Eddie. Please Lord let him say no.”
I can’t bring you and that dog here on Friday or any day. Heaven knows she needs a bath.”
Eddie began literally jumping for joy. He was so excited he practically screamed, “Yes I can.”
As far as Miss Norma was concerned the deal was final.
Miss Norma began to talk about families and how they love each other.
“Does anyone want to tell me about their family?”
There went that hand and arm flailing again so hard that it was about to drop off the boy’s body.
Eddie began by telling about his sister Cindy, Grandma Speedy and Big Jack, Aunt Phoebe and Uncle Bob, how much they all loved each other. “So far, so good,” she thought.
Then the bomb dropped.
“My Momma and Daddy love each other too. They kiss a whole, whole lot. My Daddy calls it smooching. Sometimes they go in their room and lock their door and smooch for a long time. ( he had drawn the word long out for an excessive amount of time.) when I’m suppose to be taking a nap. He had gotten all that out before Miss Norma could stop him.
Annie’s face was red as Santa’s suit. Why in the world did Jack ever tell that boy that we were in our room smooching, he should have known better than do that.
When Jack got home from work that evening, he said, “All the guys at work got phone calls from their wives who were watching Romper Room this morning. The switchboard was lit up. I heard that Eddie told the whole world about how we smooch.”
“Not the whole world, just everyone in Nashville.”
“I tried to tell you not to let him go on that show.”
“Why in the world did you tell that boy that we were smooching, it’s all your fault.”
“How in the devil did it all of a sudden become my fault?”
By the time Friday rolled around, no one in the neighborhood would have dared miss an episode of Eddie’s appearance on Romper Room for fear that they would miss hearing some juicy gossip.
Thursday evening, Annie began to look for the dog’s leash. The dog had free reign of the neighborhood and never left the premises. She would follow the kids around and sit right by their sides while they were playing so they rarely used the leash since they didn’t have a leash law.
She decided it was easier to borrow one from her next door neighbor than to hunt theirs.
She asked Eddie to run over and get it from Miss Ellie. After all, he had gotten her in this mess in the first place.
The next morning, she got Cindy off to school. Jennie Girl, the dog, was no where in sight.
“Now’s a fine time for you to take a hike,” she muttered under her breath.
Jenny Girl often liked to follow Cindy to the corner and decided she would do it this morning of all mornings. She settled herself under the big Mimosa tree and took a nap in the dirt.
“Come on, Eddie, let’s get in the car and see if that dern dog had followed your sister to the corner. Fine time for her to do that.”
“Momma, you said a bad word. You’re not suppose to say that.”
Now I bet he’s going to go blab that to the world that I said a bad word.
They got in the car and started their hunt for the dog. They were in luck. There she lay under that tree on the corner. The red cocker spaniel perked up her ears when she saw them but getting her into the car was another matter. Annie bribed the dog with a half empty package of pretzels that she found on the floor of the back seat. Jenny Girl jumped in and took up the entire back seat of the car. Eddie laid on her belly and the red cocker spaniel’s hair stuck to his clothes like he was a tar baby. Before they went into the studio Annie told Eddie, “I’ll give you another bag of M & M’s today if you do as Miss Norma tells you.
“A big bag? Yesterday you only gived me a little one.”
“No I didn’t. It was a big one, not just the biggest one that they make.”
“I want the great big one.”
“Don”t press your luck kiddo.”
Off he went into the studio of Romper Room.
She had to wait in a tiny little “water proof” room with Jenny Girl until it was the dog’s turn to go on the show. She watched with pride as Eddie followed Miss Norma’s instructions to a tee. It was definitely worth a big bag of M&M’s.
It was almost time for the dog’s appearance when she began to whine to go out and potty. The producer was quite aggravated, but grabbed her leash and took her out. Then he escorted her to the studio as if she were Lassie or some other celebrity star dog. The way things had been going, Annie could only expect the worse.
Miss Norma began by talking about how important it was for dogs to have their rabies shots. Jenny Girl was patient as she showed the viewing audience her tags.
“They not her tags,” Eddie announced bluntly.
Miss Norma was quite taken back. “Of course they are hers. Your Momma said she took Jenny Girl to one of the local Rabies Clinic to get her shot. And that’s what all boys and girls should tell their Mommas and Daddies to do like good Do Bees.”
“Nuh, uh. They not hers. She just told you that. We borrowed them for our neighbor, Miss Ellie. I had to go to get them last night.”
I could hear the producer say, “Cut and break away.”
On the way home, Eddie and his Momma made a pact. He could have a little bag of M&M’s and a small ice cream cone every day after Romper Room, but he had to promise and swear on his pinkie that he would not talk about his Mommy, Daddy, sister, grandparents or neighbors or anything that they did at home. One word and the whole deal was off.”
As the days ticked off, Eddie had done quite well for the most part with his pact he had made with his Momma.
It was finally the last day of his two weeks on Romper Room. She didn’t think she could bear to hear that Romper, Bomper, Stomper Boom song one more time. All her neighbors and friends had been glued to their TV sets each morning just in case Eddie revealed some juicy little tidbit. Before she made the pact with him, he told how the neighbor’s big dog had killed all the cats in the neighborhood. He also added that his Momma had called her an “old witch” or something like than, as well as a few other colorful neighborhood stories. If he heard his Momma or any of the other neighbors for that matter talking about it, he told it.
Annie could hardly wait for it to come to an end. It had been way too nerve wracking. Today they were collecting shoes for the poor people. Eddie had brought two pairs, one belonging to his Daddy and the other to his Momma.
The show was almost over and Annie was thinking we have gotten off almost Scot free, just a few more minutes to go.
The children were all putting their shoes into the barrel. It was now Eddie’s turn. He put in his Daddy’s shoes without hesitation. When he got to his Momma’s he stopped.
“Go ahead, Eddie,” Miss Norma encouraged, “put them in.”
“I think I should give these to our neighbor, Miss Sally. Momma said I could give these shoes and maybe they’ll send them to Miss Sally and she can get rid of those old maid teacher shoes she wears. Do you think it would be okay for me to put them in the barrel?
“I’ll make sure that Miss Sally gets them,” Miss Norma said. She held back her laughter as did the camera men and the entire crew.
Annie wanted to crawl in a hole. When they got in the car, Eddie was ready to go get his ice cream cone when he heard his Momma say, “Buddy, you blew it today. You get nothing. Nada. Zilch.”
“But Momma, I didn’t say anything about us family.”
“But you talked about Miss Sally.”
“You didn’t tell me I couldn’t say anything about Miss Sally, you just said us family.” He began to cry.
“So I did.”
She pulled her car into the Dairy Queen and got him two scoops of chocolate and two scoops of butter pecan for herself. Might as well, she thought. It doesn’t matter what I look like anyway, I don’t have any friends left. Eddie just took care of that.
That night when Jack came home he asked her why she hadn’t answered the phone earlier.
“I didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say, especially you. Go ahead, just say it and get it over with.”
“I told you so,” he mused, “but I bet their ratings went way up.”
The following Sunday, they were getting the children in the car to go to church. Jack said, “Annie look.”
Miss Sally and her husband were getting in their car too. She looked and there was Miss Sally wearing a shining new pair of high heel pumps.
Annie said, “As I live and breathe, I never thought I would see that in my lifetime.”
Eddie was looking out of the car window and he began to flail his little arms and hands when he saw Miss Sally. She waved back to him.
Jack quipped, “And the ugly duckling turned into a beautiful white swan when the little boy flailed his magic arms.”
“Maybe we can all go to the Dairy Queen after church. Eddie can have two scoops of chocolate,” she said.
“Momma, did I do something good? Was I a good Do Bee?”
“Yes, my precious boy, you did something really good, just like a good Do Bee.”
They all began to laugh uncontrollably.