A Borrowed Thanksgiving Story, Part I

Recently, I read a story on Facebook that I loved so much I could hardly stand it.  I thought it was especially poignant this time of year, so I asked my friend if I could re-print her story here. Maybe you will love it, too. I’ll post it in three bite-sized morsels, nice and symmetrical during this season of our official, government-sanctioned day of Thanks.

Lili & Me

Lili and I were friends way back when, during the era of unfulfilled romantic pursuits and pronounced unpopularity that defined my early high school experience. I was shy, freaky-haired and in possession of few talents save for playing classical piano, a respectable ability that bore no social currency whatsoever.

Screen shot 2014-11-25 at 6.37.02 AM

Weird bangs and pony tails were a must during the time before modern hair products. So was dressing like a boy.

Lili, on the other hand, was confident, funny, smart, and theatrically gifted.

Lili2

That’s her in the front, relaxed and confident.

Perhaps it was the last of these attributes that initially drew me to Lili, as one of my latent adolescent dreams was to be a thespian, this dream having sprung from an earlier, more noble ambition to be a professional rodeo clown (reluctantly abandoned when we severed our rural roots and moved into town).

Acting would be no easy task for an awkward introvert like me, with no training except for a turn as a giant witch in a middle school play. And, okay, to be honest, even that consisted of me hiding under a 7-foot, black-robed puppet, cackling and speaking anonymously while the papier-mache head assumed all the risk of social rejection.

But back to Lili and the theater.

lili3

Almost looks like me if you squint. After a glass of wine.

Freshman year, I convinced Lili to audition with me for a local production of The Wizard of OZ. Forget the high school stage, I thought, one is never too young to strive for community theater gold!

Unfortunately, my blind quest for fame and applause left me sadly ignorant of a few of the more subtle aspects of professional acting. The audition process, for example.  What I failed to appreciate in advance, and came to understand only after our parents had dropped us off at the audition, was that if you are auditioning for a musical, you really should know at least one song and be able to sing it well. We did not.

But, what ho! I thought, here we are, young and inept, but driven… let’s improvise! A rose is a rose is a rose, I say, bring on the accompanist!

And with that, we auditioned in tandem, singing a perfectly horrible rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow choreographed with much waggling of eyebrows, shuffling of feet, and a great rippling of arms at key intervals. Guaranteed, it was the most cringe-worthy three minutes of the day for the various directors who sat before us, stifling laughter.

A small part of me died that day. The actress part. She resettled into the landscape of anonymity, the dark recesses of that witch puppet who should be blamed to this very day for anything cackling and snarky that comes out of my mouth. She is gone. But Lili, at least, made that otherwise humiliating audition experience fun. (Surprisingly, she has no memory of it at all.)

Straightening my hair and wearing designer shirts might generate distinction where the theater failed.

Maybe straightening my hair and wearing designer sweatshirts will generate distinction where the theater failed.

You know how some people leave their fingerprint on your life by saying or doing something relatively insignificant, but something that creates a shift — a moment so subtle that it would go unnoticed if not for the fact that you can still remember it 30 or 40 years later? Well, for me, above and beyond our Wizard of Oz debacleone of those moments belongs to Lili. It went something like this:  “Laura, you’re really funny. You shouldn’t let [best friend at the time] push you around.”

Lili and I lost touch after she moved to another high school, but reconnected a few years ago on Facebook. I’ll end my introduction to Lili by thanking her for encouraging the funny, ugly-awkward me to come out from hiding in another girl’s shadow (or at least consider why I was there). A girl who was athletic, extroverted, and more popular than me, and under whose dominant personality I couldn’t have begun to discover my own voice or vision. Thanks, Lili.

We had curly hair in common. [photo courtesy Lili B]

We have curly hair in common. [photo courtesy Lili B]

[to be continued]

 

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8 thoughts on “A Borrowed Thanksgiving Story, Part I

  1. A new future awaits as a stand-up comic or the commentator on a special about nutrition, chickens, and global warming. Lili sounds great. Why did I never meet her?
    You really capture the pain and humor of being a sensitive teenager who doesn’t quite fit in with any group. You never gave up and continued to try new approaches to being seen.

Talk to me! I spend too much time alone in the studio.

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