Frank Murphy would have loved having a student like Talia Maselli. Instead, he got my best friend Donna and me in his English Lit class. Having Talia, class of 2014 at Newington High School, in one of his classes, instead of the note-passing two of us, would have been nice for Mr. Murphy. Because as much as we gave him a hard time, our pony-tailed heads filled with everything but compound sentences, he was our favorite teacher.
It would take a page from Stephen King’s time-travel novel “11/22/63” to bring Talia down the rabbit hole back to Newington High School circa 1960 and a seat in Mr. Murphy’s English Lit class. And perhaps, that place in time would be not be ideal for Talia, who after all, wished to have Vice President Joe Biden escort her to her senior prom. Although, back in time, they would have been closer in age, but then again, he would not have been vice president.
Last fall, the Newington High senior sent a letter, handwritten, not an email and not a text, to the vice president asking him to escort her to the Newington High School senior prom. Mr. Murphy would have loved what she wrote: “I am inviting you so far in advance because I’m sure many 17-year-old girls send you prom invitations and I had to beat them to it.” Not only would Mr. Murphy have appreciated the finesse, but I, too, thought it genius when I read her story in Saturday’s newspaper two weeks ago. Talia goes on to say that many 17-year-old girls must send the vice president requests to be their prom date and that statement, viewed through the eyes of a mature woman rather than the 17-year-old I once was, feels me with pride for the girl’s ingenuity not shaking my head saying, “Whatever is she talking about!”
If, by any stretch of the imagination I was clever enough at 17 to think about going outside the box to ask someone important to my senior prom, who would it have been? Paul Anka? Tab Hunter? Troy Donahue? Certainly not the vice president of the United States. There were priorities attached to my teenage lifestyle — Friday night basketball games and victory parties following the game, cruising in Lee Goodwin’s ’49 Ford, Paul Gurlin’s white-over-aqua Chevy pulling into my driveway — important stuff.
Looking back at those priorities is why I am so impressed with Talia, coupled with an appreciation for her initiative and hope it is representative of what the girls at Newington High have aspired to in the decades since two pony-tailed girls in Mr. Murphy’s English-Lit class graduated.
Talia went on to write that she would only tolerate a high school dance if she was “escorted by the most delightful man in America.” Boy, bulls-eye! And I think Mr. Murphy would have smiled at that and especially when Talia went on to say that if Biden turned her down she might ask Speaker of the House John Boehner in his place. “And we can’t have that now, can we.” That would have easily pulled in an A+.
The vice president could not make the prom but sent Talia a corsage of white roses, baby’s breath, and red, white and blue ribbons. She also has an invitation to visit the White House as his guest.
I can picture Talia at her desk in Mr. Murphy’s English Lit class, so much more the student than Donna and me. Talia would have concentrated on Hardy’s “The Return of the Native,” our required reading that semester. Oh, Donna and I read it, we had to or flunk the course. But when it came to any person, place or thing that would “return” what mattered to us was that the cute guys on the Southington High basketball team were coming back to Newington in a game against the Indians the next month.