On a more serious note, Anguish wiped her snotty nose all over one of my daughter’s friends last Thursday. When I picked them both up from choir, Anguish pushed and shoved, scrambling, uninvited, into my car. Though I haven’t seen her in a while, I recognized Anguish as soon as I heard her sniffles and saw her red-rimmed eyes.
My daughter’s companion, once again finding herself overlooked, neither winning a speaking part in the Christmas production nor a solo in the spring engagement, crumpled under the weight of Anguish. Settling on her for a good, long cry, Anguish got busy boring a hole straight through the child’s 10-year-old heart.
I met Anguish during my summer camp days at the Athens YWCO’s Jennie Arnold Edwards Camp. The last session of every camp season capped off with “Show,” a major fundraising event attended by parents, camp alumni and community members. And, for me, Anguish.
Summer after summer, throttled by an overwhelming desire to be in the spotlight, I felt the familiar fluttering sensation of hopeful dread. Summer after summer, though I had options, I attended “Show” session with tortured optimism for my chances of getting on stage.
Talent Night, held the first or second evening of “Show” session, was a mandatory cabin-by-cabin showcase of girls who could sing, dance, play instruments, turn flips and twirl batons … and those who could not. The best performers were selected to star in “Show.” My deepest desire was to get my moment to shine.
But my gifts trended toward swimming, kickball and riding a horse. So I choreographed desperate, clumsy dance numbers or juggling routines or ungainly diving forward rolls in hopes that the judges would misinterpret my efforts as evidence of star potential.
They did not. Year after year, I was assigned to the crowded risers, meddlesome Anguish squeezing in with me; mine another voice indiscriminate from the gaudy collection. I was just another chorus girl with dreams of being “special” and Anguish right there assuring me that I wasn’t.
As I recounted these dust-bunny memories lightly drifting in dark corners, Anguish eased up. My daughter’s friend quit choking on sobs so she could listen. “God has plans for you,” I told her. “He’s getting you ready.”
Nonetheless, my prattle dimly compares to the power of ice cream. Milkshakes knocked the edge off of despair and disappointment. While brain-freeze frolicked behind our eyeballs, my thoughts drifted to how the dream ended for me.
My last summer at Jennie Arnold Edwards Camp, for Talent Night noir, I let go of the dream; no flimsy comedy skit or forcing the camp cat to leap through flaming hula-hoops. When my compulsory turn arrived, I sat on a stool center-stage and subjected everyone to a reading of angst-infused adolescent poetry from my journal. Anguish sat with the judges for once, though their elation at not enduring another year of my awkward antics balanced out the depressing atmosphere.
The next day, the “Show” director asked me – ME! – to write a poem about camp for the program, AND she asked me – ME! – to read the poem out loud during the closing choir number. Finally! I had a part! More than that, I had an audience – my audience – for the first time in my life. There was no curtain call for Anguish that summer, even though the director made me read by flashlight behind the curtains instead of in the spotlight on stage.
Eventually, that little girl in my backseat will find her talent, too. With it will come her audience. Anguish will exit stage left. The plan will unfold. She’ll be living the (right) dream.