Miles run today: 11
Chapters revised in my novel yesterday: 2
Adults in our household it took to figure out the “new style” long division this morning: 2
When you were 11 years old, would you have been fearless enough to dance around in the center of the stage wearing a turkey hat with flapping turkey legs tied under your chin?
We went to my son’s chorus performance last night, and one of his fearless classmates stole the show. We were all laughing so hard that tears came to our eyes as he moonwalked and bopped along and sang. It was genius, I tell you.
How does a kid achieve fearlessness by age 11?
Back when I was in college, I dated an Actor. Actors live to perform. They love every second of being onstage, every clap, every chuckle. While we were dating, he got to be The Actor.
But when we were on a dating hiatus, I felt free to take acting classes to my heart’s content. I signed up for my first one through the Drama department.
Just by signing up, I felt empowered. Fearless, really.
Until the first day of class when the Drama grad student teacher, a little sprite about 4’11” in heels, said we were all going to sing a song for the class, a capella, the next time we met. There was no grade and no expectation of any complex, Etta Fitzgerald-style phrasing or nuance.
However: panic. Serious panic. I was even taking voice lessons at the time, and still: panic.
The next class period, some of the frat boy types came in and sang “Happy Birthday” in a low, barely intelligible rumble.
But one of the girls blew us all away. She wasn’t a singer, no future American Idol. But she walked right up there on those dusty hardwood floors, the sun streaming in through the tall, drama school windows and sang, “Kumbaya,” as if it were the last song she was ever going to sing. She cried, she raised her hands to heaven, she felt every second of that song.
We were all stunned. I felt as if I had walked in on her naked self while she was performing last rites on a werewolf. I don’t think I was alone in feeling that way.
She explained what the song meant to her, and we were spellbound: she had almost died in a foreign country, and that song had gone through her mind as she beat back Death. It took months for her to get back to the U.S.
As a pampered college student, I was shifting my bones on those bare wood floors, thinking that she had lived about twenty more lifetimes than I had.
Also that I would have trouble coming back to the classroom after that stripped-bare performance.
But she did. Again and again.
And everyone loved her quirky truthfulness, the way she entered each drama exercise with enthusiasm and complete disregard for her dignity.
Twenty years later, I can appreciate her open-armed approach to life’s opportunities. I try to connect with that part of myself that throws caution out the window, the part that says, “I may regret this decision later, but I’m going to go for it, 100 percent.”
But I have to applaud the 11-year-old moonwalking turkeys who have figured out all of those lessons already. They have so many years of living fearlessly ahead of them. And I want to follow in their footsteps, wearing a turkey hat and singing “Kumbaya” at the top of my lungs.