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  • Welcome to Storyline Online, brought to you by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.

  • I'm Oprah Winfrey, and today I'm going to be reading "The Hula-Hoopin' Queen"

  • written by Thelma Lynne Godin and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

  • Today is the day I'm gonna beat Jamara Johnson at hooping.

  • Then I'll be the Hula-Hoopin' queen of 139th street!

  • Jamara says she's gonna be the queen forever, but last week I almost beat her.

  • I sort through my hoops and pick out my favorite. And then I feel it comin' on. The itch. The Hula-Hoopin' itch.

  • My fingers start snappin', and my feet start tappin'. My hips start swingin',

  • and I'm just reachin' for a hoop when Mama says...

  • "Girl, don't you even think about it. You know today is Miz Adeline's birthday."

  • Heat washes up over me, and I stamp my foot. Don't get me wrong. I love Miz Adeline.

  • She lives right next door. Miz Adeline took care of Mama when she was little, and she took care of me too.

  • She's like my very own grandmama.

  • "But, Mama," I burst out. "I can't help with Miz Adeline's party. I'm supposed to meet Jamara. Today's the day..."

  • Mama stands as still as water in a puddle. She gives me her look. Then she hands me a broom.

  • I sigh loudly and start sweeping.

  • But when Mama's not watching, I push my favorite hoop a little closer to the door with my toe.

  • Mama and I dust every room and scrub down the floors.

  • We polish each window 'til we can see clear to New Jersey.

  • After that I peel potatoes while Mama starts mixing up her special double-fudge chocolate cake.

  • "Kameeka, set the oven to 350 degrees," Mama says as she empties the last of the sugar into the mixing bowl.

  • "And add sugar to the grocery list."

  • I push the button on the oven and look out the window. It's already getting late.

  • I bet Jamara's telling everybody I'm too scared to hoop her.

  • While the cake bakes, we make up plates of fancy sandwiches.

  • Then Mama slices strawberries and shows me how to make whipped cream.

  • When the timer rings, Mama opens the oven.

  • "Kameeka!" Mama yells as she checks the oven temperature. "You only set it to 250 degrees!"

  • Miz Adeline's birthday cake looks like someone sat on it. Mama says we'll have to start over.

  • Mama sends me to the store to buy more sugar.

  • On my way out the door, I grab a hoop like I usually do, but when I get outside, I remember that I'm on a mission.

  • Miz Adeline's party will be starting in a couple of hours.

  • Mama has to finish the potato salad, and we still have to make another cake.

  • I don't even twirl my hoop as I hurry down the street.

  • I don't stop to blow kisses to Miss Evelyn or wave to Mr. John in the bakery.

  • I'm coming out of the store when I see Jamara and Portia hoopin' on the corner of 139th and Broadway.

  • "We thought you weren't coming, Kameeka," says Jamara with a smirk.

  • I need to get the sugar back to Mama, but Jamara sounds so smug I can't stand it.

  • "Well, you thought wrong," I tell her. "You ready?" she asks.

  • "I was born ready."

  • And then I feel it comin' on. The itch. The Hula-Hoopin' itch.

  • "Whoever hoops the longest is the winner," Portia says.

  • As soon as she shouts "Go!" my fingers start snappin' and my feet start tappin'.

  • My hips start swingin', and I just know I'm gonna beat Jamara today.

  • Neighborhood kids crowd around as Jamara and I hoop. Cars honk and slow down.

  • Trucks roar past, throwing up heat and dust from the pavement. Swish, swiggle, swish.

  • Jamara frowns. "You've been practicing some," she says.

  • "That's right, girl." A grin greater than the Brooklyn Bridge stretches across my face.

  • The sun moves between the buildings, and the sidewalk starts cooling down, but Jamara and me keep on hoopin'.

  • "I've got doughnuts for Miz Adeline's party," Mr. John calls out as he closes up the bakery.

  • Swish, swiggle, swish, swiggle.

  • "Miz Adeline's cake!" I shout.

  • My hoop clatters to the sidewalk. I grab it and the sugar, and race up the block.

  • I can hear Jamara laughing behind me.

  • By the time I reach our apartment, Mama is madder than a hornet. "Kameeka Hayes!" she scolds.

  • "I'm sorry, Mama. I saw Jamara and--"

  • "Girl, I don't want to hear that Hula-Hoopin' nonsense. It's too late now. Miz Adeline's already here.

  • You take yourself on into the living room and explain to Miz Adeline why she won't have cake for her birthday."

  • Miz Adeline brought her own music, and she's got it turned up loud.

  • She's sitting and listening to a jazzy blues tune, noddin' her head like a spring robin looking for a worm.

  • "Hi, Miz Adeline," I say. "Happy Birthday." "Kameeka, come here, baby. Give me a kiss."

  • I come in close and kiss Miz Adeline's soft cheek.

  • Then I whisper in her ear, "You don't really like cake much, do you?"

  • "Baby girl, you know I sure do love cake. Chocolate cake with strawberries and real whipped cream on top."

  • She pats my arm. "Oh yes, that is my favorite cake." Miz Adeline smiles at me.

  • I try to smile back, but my heart is racing as fast as the roller coaster at Coney Island.

  • I can't tell her about the cake just yet.

  • Pretty soon the neighbors start arriving.

  • Miss Evelyn's wearing her Sunday church hat, and Mr. John's all spruced up in a pin-striped suit.

  • Jamara and Portia sashay in with their parents. They're still carrying their hoops from earlier today.

  • "Girls, I don't want to see any hoops," says Mama firmly to Jamara and Portia. "Okay, Mrs. Hayes," says Jamara.

  • She flashes her big, smirking smile at me. "Kameeka, you're about done with hoopin' after today, aren't you?"

  • I smile right back at her. "Don't you bet on it, Jamara."

  • Most of the presents are still unopened when Miz Adeline says, "Well, I do believe it's time for birthday cake."

  • I swallow hard.

  • "Miz Adeline," I say slowly. "We made a cake, but it didn't turn out right.

  • Then we needed more sugar to make another one, but I didn't get the sugar back to Mama in time 'cause I was hoopin'.

  • I was trying to beat Jamara so I could be the Hula-Hoopin' Queen of 139th Street.

  • It's my fault there isn't any cake.

  • "No cake?" says Miz Adeline, raising her eyebrows.

  • I look over at Jamara. She's spinning one of Mr. John's doughnuts round and round on her finger like it's a Hula-Hoop.

  • Suddenly that gives me an idea.

  • "I'll be right back," I yell as I race from the room.

  • In the kitchen I set a chocolate doughnut on a pretty plate. I add whipped cream and strawberries.

  • Mama comes in to help. I put a candle on top, and she lights it.

  • As I carry the doughnut cake to Miz Adeline, Mama starts singing "Happy Birthday," and everyone joins in.

  • The candle glows as bright as the smile on Miz Adeline's face.

  • "Wow, this is just about perfect," Miz Adeline says, taking a bite of her doughnut birthday cake.

  • "Now, Kameeka, did you say you were hoopin'? When I was a girl, I was the best Hula-Hooper on this block."

  • "Adeline, don't you start that nonsense," Miss Evelyn says as she marches on over to us. "You know very well I was the best."

  • Miz Adeline looks at me. "Baby girl, why don't you bring some hoops on in here and let me show this old girl what she forgot."

  • My eyes find Mama's. She shakes her head.

  • But Miz Adeline's already pushing back chairs to make room. Then she slips a hoop over her head.

  • And right then I know.

  • Miz Adeline's just like me. She's got the itch. The Hula-Hoopin' itch.

  • Her fingers start snappin', and her feet start tappin.'

  • Her hips start swingin', and before we know it that hoop is swishin' right around Miz Adeline's waist.

  • Then she's got it swingin' around her neck.

  • I glance over at Mama and see a smile pulling at her lips in spite of herself.

  • Miz Adeline shimmies the hoop down past her knees.

  • She spins it around her ankle as she hops on one foot, then the other.

  • With the hoop still swishin' round and round, Miz Adeline heads for the door.

  • Miss Evelyn grabs one of my hoops, and Mr. John grabs another.

  • Even Mama's hips are swingin' as the whole party spills out on to the street.

  • Everybody's got the itch. The Hula-Hoopin' itch.

  • Pretty soon hoops are swishin' and swingin' all the way down the block.

  • "Kameeka, this is the best birthday party I've ever had!" Miz Adeline hollers.

  • Jamara hoops on over to me. "Kameeka," she says. "I know who the real Hula-Hoopin' Queen of 139th Street is."

  • "I do too," I say.

  • Jamara settles her hoop around her waist. "You ready, Kameeka?"

  • "I was born ready," I say.

  • The sidewalk is cooler than a spring rain, and the streetlights shine like stars.

  • Swish, swiggle, swish...

  • The end.

  • Well, the reason I wanted to read this story to you all is because I love Hula Hoops so much,

  • and it was one of my favorite things to play with when I was a girl. And even now, as a full-grown adult,

  • I have my own Hula Hoop, I have actually several Hula Hoops,

  • and I have an emoji that is an avatar of myself with a Hula Hoop.

  • And whenever anything fun, or special, or really fantastic happens in my life,

  • I go out and I get my Hula Hoops and I swish, swiggle, swish.

  • Thanks for watching Storyline Online.

Welcome to Storyline Online, brought to you by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.

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B2 US mama hula hoop cake itch birthday

The Hula-Hoopin' Queen read by Oprah Winfrey

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    April Lu posted on 2019/08/28
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