The world according to Brenda Lee

Published 10:05 pm Wednesday, July 1, 2015

By Frank Roberts

Several moons ago, I was invited to a restaurant in Corapeake to meet someone — well — re-meet. It turned out to be a lovely nurse who, when we first met way back in ’77 was a cute 8-year-old.

I had spent several years visiting elementary schools for the Virginian-Pilot, interviewing kiddies about a variety of subjects — sort of a print version of Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

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One fine day, I came across a button-cute lass at Sunbury Elementary School, Brenda Lee Blanchard. The planned five-minute interview became a 45-minute discussion. She turned out to be worth a column of her own.

She lived in Sunbury, but preferred life on the moon, “in a house with oxygen.” But, she said, “I wouldn’t go there unless I could bring my dad along.”

She said she had a 7-year-old boyfriend. “He’ll catch up to me.” She said she liked Chris, because “he’s got a nice look. I don’t know how I fell in love with him. He’s awfully pretty.”

Keeping up with Brenda Lee wasn’t easy, but it was fun. She had a double dose of energy. She was bright and inquisitive and had a quick sense of humor.

The topic of the day was food. “I love food,” she said, “or else I’d starve to death. If I didn’t get any food, I’d fuss. I like chicken pot pie, except for the chicken in it. My favorite dessert is ice cream with whipped cream and green coloring.”

The next topic of discussion was school. “I like to color, I like to add and subtract, and I like to walk around a lot.”

Brenda Lee enjoyed school and knew that a good education would be important to her future. “The more days you miss, the worst chance you have of getting a job. If you miss 20 days you can’t get a job at all.”

The future nurse said she was studying hard, “because I’d like to be a banker.” Quick shift in topic. “I’d like to be a pretty bluebird. I’d like to fly. I’d go where nice people live, then I’d turn back into a person.”

Brenda Lee was well aware of the fact that the longer she talked, the longer she would be staying out of class. “You could do a book on me,” she said, looking with twinkling eyes, “or, at least four more pages. Keep on talking to me and you’ll get lots of money.”

I brought that matter up back at the office, but the powers-that-be (my editor, John Pruitt) didn’t see it her way.

Better than money, though, was the memory of a fascinating child with a kitten named “Tigers.”

“Why don’t you just call her Tiger?” I foolishly asked. “Because,” Brenda Lee replied, “she has more than one stripe.”

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at