Do You Hear The People Sing?


This may come as an utter shock to many of you, so brace yourselves: I have never been one of the cool kids.

It's always been this way. See, I have this imagination that tends to run rampant. I've learned to rein it in as I've gotten older, but back in elementary school---hooooo-eeeee. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Pearson, literally thought I had psychological problems. I am not making this up. I wouldn't act out in class, but that cryptic first-grade journal I kept convinced her that I needed professional help.

Once upon a time, there was a newt. The newt's mother didn't love her. So the newt died. Humans can't feel anything, they're numb from the brain down. When they bury a penny, it's something that can't be found.

But Mrs. Pearson gave me far too much credit. The answer to my psychological problems was simple: I watched a lot of TV. The line about humans not feeling anything, being numb from the brain down? Totally stole that from Fern Gully.

There was also the fact that I ran around the school playground like a madwoman. No really, like a madwoman. See, I had just watched the non-animated version of The Jungle Book and was convinced I was Mowgli at heart. I ran around the playground in an ugly dress that my mom made me wear (in an effort to make me more ladylike...), jumping off the monkey bars and grunting. LIKE MOWGLI. I even purposefully ruffled up the French braids my mom put in my hair to achieve the full savage effect.

My wild imagination and inability to conform to social norms led to a dire lack of friends throughout the majority of my elementary years, which only perpetuated the problem of me acting like a total imbicle  on the playground. In class, I was normal. Nice little Kristi Thomas, who prided herself on her ability to read and rock the multiplication tables. But as soon as the recess bell rang? Banshee time.

Third grade is when Roald Dahl got really cool. Not because The BFG and The Witches were awesome books, but because Brooke liked him. And Brooke had shiny hair and played on the Arsenal soccer team. I desperately wanted to be friends with her.

PROBLEM: I sucked at soccer and all other physical activities requiring any semblance of coordination.

PROBLEM: My hair wasn't pretty like Brooke's thanks to my frizzy French braids.

I devised all sorts of plans to befriend Brooke. One of my friends, Dawn, played on Arsenal (and was thus officially cool). I had an in! All I had to do was get myself a pair of black nylon Adidas track pants (like the ones Brooke and Dawn wore). It was a plan that couldn't go wrong!

I begged my mother for a pair, but the last thing that woman was going to do was buy me a pair of butch athletic pants (thus negating her French-braiding and ugly-dress-buying efforts). She compromised and bought me a pair of pink ones. They were better than nothing, so I went to school the next day hoping to be welcomed into Brooke and Dawn's arms. This proved to be an utter failure. Pink nylon track pants?? Who did I think I was? Dawn--who is now one of my dearest friends--said she and Brooke made fun of me for being such a wannabe.

I was running out of ideas. Reading Roald Dahl didn't make me cool, I didn't play soccer, my hair wasn't shiny, and the pink nylon track pants debacle had set me back. As I sat in the car one day pondering my fate, my dad stuck a CD in the CD player that I had never heard before. Les Miserables.

We were driving to Denver, and my dad told me the story of Les Mis in between songs. It basically changed my life. Then, it dawned on me: This was my ticket to Cool City. I would tell the story of Les Mis at the next week's show-and-tell. An oral recounting of music theater for show-and-tell: Again, a plan that couldn't go wrong!

Well, I did just that. And freaking Anne said she'd already heard it before. Biotch. Plus, it didn't help that Nathan brought in his skateboard that day. Everyone was much more impressed with his ollie.

I returned home that day dejected. After a few hours of moping, I put on the Les Mis CD.

Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men . . .
This story is all about the triumph of the human spirit. Of the power of believing.

It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again . . .
Who freaking cares about Brooke anyway?! About Nathan's stupid ollie?!?

When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums . . .
So what if I don't have friends? I'm still happy!!!!!!!!!!

There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!
I wasn't about to let third-grade social politics get me down! This was my PERSONAL revolution. I was ready to storm the barricade! I had to share this epiphany with EVERYONE ON MY BLOCK.

So at 9PM, I hopped on my pink Huffy bicycle and rode around the neighborhood, singing at the top of my lungs "DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING?!?!? SINGING A SONG OF ANGRY MEN!!!!!!!!!!! IT IS THE MUSIC OF A PEOPLE WHO WILL NOT BE SLAVES AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Like I said, I've never been one of the cool kids.


  1. hahaha LOVE the name dropping in here... all people I remember! Hilarious. I was also never cool and also envied Brooke's shiny hair (although I was a desparate wanna be in 6th grade... even worse!) :-)

  2. My sister thought she was the monkey from 'The Jungle Book' one afternoon in our kitchen when she was maybe, 7. She sang 'I Wanna Be Like You' and 'jumped rope' with her arms and...cracked her skull open. No joke - twenty years later, she still has a huge scar. OPEN.

    P.S. I think you're cool :)

  3. PS Anne Byrne made her own dress for 6th grade graduation... also cooler than me...

    PPS one time Nathan was playing a song on his guitar (so cool) and was like "Do you even know what song this is" and I was like "DUUUHHH... Lint." The song was called Lit. I failed.

  4. Kristi - LOVED this post. I have no idea if I was cool when I was little, but I think I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I didn't really care. I love your recant of everything that happened. While you were Mowgli, I had this far out idea that I was Belle, lol, in my mismatched neon shorts and character T-shirts. The imagination rocks. And so does Les Mis.

  5. Just watched the 25th anniversary concert of Les Mis on PBS last night . . .
    It's powerful stuff. I can see how it could lead to the singing and bicycle riding.
    I actually remember a fellow 5th grader asking me what I was talking about as I sang parts of Les Mis while doing my schoolwork.

  6. Hahahaha, you're so CRAZY and adorable! Hahahah, love the bike scene.

    As I've always said: people who think in terms of what's cool or not---will never be cool. Dance to your own drum, Mowgli's drum...hahahaha.


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