We headed out to one of our favorite annual events last week--a street fair organized and run by neighborhood kids, with proceeds benefiting our local library. There was face-painting and art activities, baseball cards and used books for sale, and enough homemade cookies to make dinner unnecessary.
But the greatest excitement of the afternoon, aside from discovering that our one-year-old is a petty thief (preferring not to bob for apples but to steal one outright), came courtesy of my good friend Mary. One minute she was wearing jogging shorts and a T-shirt, snapping photos of her two boys and schmoozing with friends. The next minute, she was bouncing out of her house with a baton in her hand, wearing black velvet shorts and a black velvet top adorned with golden tassels.
The crowd stood in rapt attention as Mary twisted and circled and threw her baton into the air to the pulsating beat of Rockin' Robin. No one could match her. Not the high school jazz quartet, or the two girls singing a sweet "Tomorrow" from Annie. Not the yo-yo hotshot from the nearby elementary school, or even the budding thespians performing their annual rendition of "Little Bunny Foo-Foo." I don't know what surprised me more: the fact that Mary actually caught the thing, or that she could still fit into that little outfit from high school.
It got me thinking. Let's say that next year I decide to swallow my pride and do something in the talent show that would surprise (and delight!) my friends; something that would make them say, "After all these years, I never knew Gail could do that!" Problem is, nothing came immediately to mind. After a few days of mulling it around, I dug up a few possibilities:
I could eat ice-cream sandwiches. I'll bet none of my fortysomething friends knows that when I was in seventh grade, I was the biggest act in the school lunchroom. Kids would gather round to see how many ice-cream sandwiches I could eat in lieu of the more balanced sack lunch my mother sent. My record of seven was recorded in the weekly school newsletter.
I could sew a dress together in record time--backwards. I take pride in the fact that I was the only girl in my junior high sewing class who sewed the hand-embroidered bodice of my dress inside out. I explained to my teacher, a humorless woman, that I did so to place it closer to my heart. She flunked me anyway.
I could do the limbo. About the only benefit of being the slowest-to-develop girl in my entire home state of New Mexico was the fact that I could dazzle at the limbo way longer than all the other, more developed, girls who (ha-ha) knocked the stick down as soon as their belly cleared it.
Of course, I could also do what my high school drama teacher taught me was as important a role to play as being the star: I could be a great audience member. As Mary performed, I could ooh and aah and clap and squeal just like this year. And then I could head over to the bucket of bobbing apples and delight my toddler by grabbing one with my teeth.
Gail Rosenblum was editor of Minnesota Parent from 1993 to 1996. She is the mother of three young children.