There I was looking at that jacket, knowing gratefulness was expected, but totally unable – because of my own thwarted desires- to express it in any way.
I shoved it in the closet, behind every other wearable item I could find – hoping that everyone would forget it existed. And, for the most part – they did.
For that, I felt what I thought was gratitude.
I spent the next few years getting involved in the school’s music, drama, and dance programs. Became a majorette, made it into symphonic band, kept good grades. [ I didn’t realize what an amazing school it was until I became a teacher and saw others that were (by that time) twenty years behind where it had been twenty years ago. But that is another post entirely.]
So after a while, I had become everything I wanted to appear to be to everyone that I thought should have a say. Very feminine, classy, smart, friendly. No one in this town would ever see me as the Tom-boy, tree climber, barefoot, geek that I knew I was underneath. But I didn’t understand the extent of my transformation until I tried out for the school musical my senior year. (Something I did every year, but until that point the lead roles were sweet, girly, and almost out of my range soprano parts.)
Not this year.
When I stepped on stage at the audition and belted out the words to Secret Love, the director asked if I had been taking singing lessons from Cher. So I got to be that oh, so charming of leading (ahem) ladies – Calamity Jane.
People who weren’t in drama or music doubted my ability to do it. Didn’t see anything in me that could be boyish much less downright manly. Didn’t know I had spent more time up a tree or on a horse than I had with pointe shoes on or a baton in my hand.
I didn’t know how to feel. Mad that they doubted my skill, or overjoyed that they saw a genuineness in my girly side. The best thing about that part is that I got to be both. Loud and powerful at times, but completely soft and vulnerable at others.
By the end of the show, I was so used to wearing the buckskin jacket that was part of my costume that I knew I would miss it – the swishy fringe had a nice balance of girly and powerful that I was beginning to appreciate. Not to mention the cast members all braided some of the strands for luck – and I would miss seeing those tokens of support and friendship from the people that saw me finally happy with my new-found balance in being a girly Tom-boy geek.
And in the last few weeks of the show, knowing that I was going to have to give back the buckskin, guess what I went looking for? Yep – that acid-washed denim, fringed jacket. I wore it every day – the cast members braided away, and I was happy – with being me. It is still hanging out in the closet at my mothers house – a reminder that the gift I rejected became the gift I cherished most.
Some of you may be beginning to see where this series of posts is going. And even if part of it is obvious, there are other connections yet to be made.
I will leave you with a clip of Secret Love. (To see the rougher side of old Calam – look for clips of Windy City, The Deadwood Stage, or Men, Men, Horrible Men – or you could just watch the “trailer” for the newer production in the UK.)