The highlight of the third grade was our musical production of Music Throughout The Years, a fanciful medley of songs from the 1920’s to the present day 1980’s. We began with a rousing rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and rounded out the evening with a heartful version From a Distance. Whomever put the music together was obviously a genius.
I was pretty stoked, though, because I got to play two whole parts in the play. First, I was a trippy 60’s party goer in our totally rockin’ version of Splish Splash, who came in and danced. Later, I was to come in and shoot someone with a fake bow (but no arrow).
Just like I knew that I was supposed to be an actress. I could tell.
Unfortunately no one had showed me how exactly to work the bow. Living in the suburbs, the hunting experience I’d had was limited to stalking my prey–the canned frosting tubs–at the grocery store. Perhaps if I’d lived somewhere in Montana, say, I’d have known how to properly hold a fake bow.
But I stood backstage, certain that my future as an actress shone brightly in the stars. Why, I had dark hair and teeth like chicklets and liked hats. I could certainly be like one of those sitcom stars. I could smell my destiny like some exotic perfume. I was going to be an ACTRESS.
When it came my part to shoot someone, I aimed the motherfucker right at my own face. In front of Baby Jesus, my whole school, our parents, and worst of all, my whole class.
I was mortified.
Thankfully, it was later when I realized my colossal fuck-uppery but I still remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach. Which, at age 8, you can’t just separate it and be all “Dude, I didn’t fucking know, okay?” It’s like the end of the world.
Luckily, I was only ostracized for a day or so until some girl peed her pants and somehow I wasn’t the biggest asshole in our class. But for that day I got the meanest note I’ve ever gotten. Fuck Monotizing the Hate, this is the real hate mail! I can actually still remember it:
I like you a little bit. But it grows smaller every day.
Her name was Becky too! How’s that for the kicker in the ass! Also, she signed it “Love Becky” which means that she was writing the note for show anyway.
After my stint as the class punching bag for accidentally holding the bow the wrong way, Becky and I made up and were pretending to be The Babysitters Club again by the week’s end. Those books were wicked fun.
This week, Ben had his third grade musical, and he was all nervous that he was going to screw it up, and so I started telling him this story, right? So he could see that I fucked up and that I had somehow made it to adulthood as a semi-functioning adult (shut UP!).
That somehow my bowing mishap hadn’t made it onto my permanent record and I hadn’t had to spend the rest of my life living down “The Girl Who Shot Herself In The Face With A Fake Bow.” And then I realized that being teased by my friends EVEN FOR A DAY probably wasn’t his idea of no consequences, so I uncharacteristically shut my mouth mid-story.
Ben: “Mom, I’m just nervous about this.”
Aunt Becky: “Don’t be nervous, dude. See, when I was in third grade, I was supposed to shoot this bow, and I turned it around and shot it the wrong way and…”
Aunt Becky: “And, uh, WOW! Look at that cat! Isn’t he, uh, FAT?”
Ben (looks around and sees our cat, Peekachoo): “That looks like the same cat, Mom. He looks the same as he always does.”
Aunt Becky: “But isn’t he fat?”
Ben: “What happened after you shot the bow wrong?”
Aunt Becky: “Uh, well, nothing?”
Ben: “I don’t believe you.”
Aunt Becky: “Some, uh, girl peed her pants.”
Aunt Becky: “So if you trip and fall while you’re dancing, how’s this, I’ll bum rush the stage and TAKE OVER FOR YOU. Everyone will be so busy focusing on what I’M doing that they’ll ignore you and focus on me. They’ll forget all about your fall.”
Aunt Becky: “Or you can imagine everyone in their underwear.”
Aunt Becky: “And I’ll take you out for ice cream afterward. So, if you’re scared, just think about ice cream. That ALWAYS works for me.”
And, you know what? The kid did his Momma proud. I was all set and ready to bum rush the stage and it turns out that being stupid isn’t genetic. He didn’t trip, fall, or embarrass himself in anyway.
I can’t say the same for myself, but you knew that.