My kindergarten class was putting on the grandest of all Christmas programs that year. My mom could not sew. I can’t sew. It is a hereditary thing. I think it has more to do with lack of patience than anything. I first learned of this hereditary inability to sew when our kindergarten class put on what we thought was the largest production of Sonny and Cher to ever take the stage. Dozens of little Chers were scheduled to hit the stage with their matching Sonnys.
The moms were given the task of sewing matching Sonny and Cher outfits. My mom hired a friend to sew my Cher outfit. We picked shiny green fabric and designed my outfit with a custom choker, big earrings and a headpiece—and ta da—I was Cher! My outfit had all the makings of a diva dress. I was so excited. I loved all things shiny and glittery—ok I have to admit it—I loved all things gaudy. In kindergarten, I would have willingly worn any of Cher’s outfits to the grocery store.
When the big day came, I pranced onto stage, glowing with pride beside my Sonny. We sang, we danced and with every word we sang, my Sonny spit on my face. Literally, the louder we sang the faster the saliva flew from his mouth onto my face! I was distraught and disillusioned. How did I get the one and only faulty Sonny? My dreams of a Cher-like stardom were being drenched by Sonny at a very tender age. The show had to go on, but I was certain every eye in the audience was focused on our spitting duet.
I decided right then and there that I was done with stage life forever. I was humiliated. The wonder of my dress wasn’t enough any longer to distract me from my woes. I had climbed onto the stage feeling beautiful and confidant, but once I was on stage with spitting Sonny, it took every ounce of courage I had to not add tears to my already drenched face.
In reality, I’m sure that no one noticed. The spit was probably not even visible from stage, let alone offstage. But my reality at the moment was different. I saw an imperfection out of my control as a fault line that destroyed everything in its path. I’m sure every parent had their eyes firmly fixated on their own child and didn’t even notice as I deflated before their very eyes. Even my parents were probably enchanted with my smile that covered up my inner turmoil. But my view of reality was obscured by how I believed the actions of Sonny reflected on me.
Before the Sonny and Cher show at St. Elizabeth’s, I was prepared to take center stage at any given moment. I was fearless and confident. Afterwards I shunned the stage. I believed imperfection had marred my stage presence. I believed that my image wasn’t fully in my control. It is silly that just a bit of unintentional spit sprayed onto my face had impacted my confidence so completely, but it did.
Later I realized how we all allow a collection of minor incidents and major events of the past impact how we view ourselves. Past unintentional slights can touch us deeply and shake our confidence. The words, actions and treatment of someone can re-mold our image of ourselves. Sometimes those hurts cut so deep it separates us from our God-given gifts. I was terrified of public humiliation and I couldn’t even remember where the roots of fear had been planted.