I think my Mother would have liked it if I had been a movie star. She wanted this, not because of any particular talent or beauty she noticed blossoming in her oldest and unfortunately rather plain girl child, but mostly because she was just hopeful and romantic. I knew this to be her dream for two distinctive activities she propagated before I was old enough to protest. The first was the dramatic hairstyles she practiced and hoped would turn my lank and limp baby hair into something more akin to Shirley Temple or at the very least little orphan Annie. (To Mother, curls or friz, no lesser, these two evils) So between perms and hairsprayed swept ponytales hanging from the right side of my temple, hairstyles that might have looked pretty or at least cute on other children, were borderline disturbing on me.
The second activity was almost an equal disappointment with the exception that she only tried this particular thing once. When I was six, she entered me in a beauty pageant. While I might not have had the curls, enough had happened in my short life to somehow know from the get go that we had a double disadvantage to overcome. Sure, a few of the striving princesses had the goods for queenship, but it was more than evident that another factor would determine who would wear the crown. Quietly behind little hands with ears tuned to the slightest evidence that pecking order was being maintained, I heard it. “How are they going to raise money? You know where they live.” It wasn’t a question.
I couldn’t escape the hopeful but worried look on my Mother’s face, her smile fragile and delicate, (a feature to this day I wish I had inherited, it would have most likely elevated my movie star potential, among other things.) Clearly, there was reasons to worry.
I remember bits and smidges about the activities leading up to the crowning. There was an ice cream social to augment our fund raising efforts and to cut costs, (well to avoid the issue of no money) and deals were made to provide the right accouterments for a beauty in the making. My dad, bartering his skills for laying concrete, labored 75 hours, to fulfill the price of my netty, sea green, sparsely rhinestoned beauty pageant gown from the neighbor behind us, whose sewing machine skills and nimble fingers must have far outstripped the value of my Dad’s brawny arms and his concrete work. Then there was the convertible. Every one had to have one, decorated with streamers and balloons and signs making note of where your beauty or your fiscal talent had gotten you in the pageant, once the announcement was made and the parade began. I vaguely remember riding, atop the trunk, of my borrowed vehicle, my green net fluffy around me, too young to grasp the import of all that beauty pageants mean to young girls and old, now and then, but developing distinctly, a longing for one thing. I might not have liked the hairdos, but I sure did like that sparkly crown.
So it was Sunday afternoon, yesterday, with a drizzly rain falling outside that I happened to find myself on the front row, center stage, right under the bright stage lights of a church theatre, practicing for a Christmas celebration of song and sound. As I sang, I thought about years of high school acapella choir under the direction of the somewhat tortured genius of Bobby Taylor, a man of mercurial bouts and fits, but one who telegraphed to the talented and untalented high school members that filled his choir, the beauty of music and corporate performance of such. As the strains of a purposefully dissonant version of Little Drummer Boy filled our practice, down the aisle, marched a drumline of high school students. I smiled as I saw him, the man who taught these students to bang and drum, the very one who had taught mine to do the same. Despite the years and life that has separated us, I choose to think that as we embraced, Lamar’s artist’s soul recognized something of the feelings of my heart for his part in giving my sons the gift of corporate performance and music.
I closed my eyes as we sang, and the thought of gifts and Christmas and drummer boys and sons and God’s Son and crowns and music shared now and across time filled my heart. I thought about how every experience good and bad brings us to where we are each day and that there is real beauty in some of the things we get to experience here on Earth. I thought about how lucky I was to have a mother who thought I was beautiful enough on the outside to consider stardom and who cared enough about my insides to show me and still show me her faith. Under those bright lights, augmented only slightly by post menopausal hot flashes, I considered, how distinctly, warmly starlike I felt. Not because of beauty or money or fame, but because God loves me, enough to have filled my life and the lives of my sons, with one of his gifts, music and then the other, most precious, His own abiding, forever love. And well, there is the crown. He promised. I think I am going to get one after all. The for real, forever kind. Hallelujah.