Saturday, December 4, 2010

Confessions and Courage

Last week, in a moment of bad judgement, I confessed my fear of watching Mickey Mouse Club on Fridays. I guess the bad judgement came in the promise to explain. Here you go. Monday through Thursdays were fine, but on Fridays, I would nose dive under my bed, locked myself in the bathroom, escaped to the library, or pretended to be overwhelmed with kindergarten homework...anything to avoid that show.
To fully understand, you need to know that before the advent of audience participation shows like "American Idol", I was an involved viewer. On "Sky King" days, I had my little walkie-talkie at hand in case Sky's daughter, Penny (and my idol) needed information on her dad's whereabouts. I knew all of Rootie Kazootie's "rootisisms", and shouted them out loudly...."yessirootie", "nosirootie", "goshorootie", "absoroootie"...well, you get the pattern.

My magic "Winkie Dink" screen was ready to press onto the TV and the crayons were handy in case Winkie got into a jam and needed me to draw an escape route on the screen. Sometimes Winkie needed my help quickly and there was no time to press on the magic screen. On those occassions, I drew directly on to the TV. I had my Dale Evans gun and holster, by Mr. bunny Rabbit puppet and my Howdy Doody bandanna.

But Mickey Mouse Club...that was different. No props. No costumes. Just me and my Mousketeers. I knew (and still know) the words to each day's specific theme song, and yes, I sang along in my pathetically off key way; but mostly I was mesmerized by the kids having fun and putting on shows every day. Those kids lookd just like my and my friends.

Friday was "Talent Round-Up Day." My Mouseketeer friends opened the show in their magnificent cowgirl and cowboy attire. They galloped around the stage on horses, the kind you step into, with the fake legs dangling at the sides. When they finished the song, one of the gang, usually Annette, or Karen or Cubby would say "And now, we proudly present our talent winner for the week...." and, as they shouted out a name, a little train would chug onto the stage, bringing in a special ordinary kid from somewhere far away. That kid would sing, tap dance, do magic tricks, tell a story...oh my, the talent oozed.

Why then, if "Talent Round-up Day" was filled with such excitement, would I seek refuge in far off places at exactly 4:30? I lived in fear that one Friday, Annette would look out at the world and say, "Today's special guest is Bev Denor from Manitowoc, Wisconsin." I lived if fear of that train showing up in front of our house to take me to the studio. I was unprepared. I had no talent. Nothing that I could possibly do as Jimmy, Roy and the Mouseketters surrounded me waiting for some display of life. I would be rendered mute. Perhaps I would giggle, turn my back to the camera, or worse, run off the stage in tears.

After a full season of Friday disappearences, mom asked what was up, and I laid my five year old fear on the line. In no time, she set me up with a confident, but off key, rendition of 'How Much is that Doggie in the Window?". I was good to go. From then on, I was free and clear to watch on Fridays. Never saw it on Fridays, though. Instead, I waited at the window for the little train...that never came!

Enough true confessions, but I have one more small MMC story to share. I have a friend who plays guitar, banjo and other string instruments professionally. He tried living a normal life in one place, Manitowoc, for a while, but soon found that life on the road worked better for him. A few years back, he landed a gig playing in a pit for a Broadway touring company. One Saturday morning the phone rang here at the store, and it was Bob with a huge surprise. He put Cubby O'Brien on the phone...Cubby, one of my Mouseketeers all grown up. He was drumming in the pit. Bob later sent me Cubby's autograph on the show's playbill, which I promptly, and accidentally recycled!

*****On a serious note, the images and reports from Marinette has surly been on many minds this week. What courage those students, teachers, administrators, and responders maintained in the face of fear.

Ironically, I was in the midst of reading Armstrong Sperry's Call It Courage, a Newberry winner. When he was a small boy, the ocean gods took Mafatu's mother, leaving him with a fear of being drowned. He is scorned by the other island boys, and eventually understands that he must face his enemy in order to survive. It is a powerful tale. Sperry artfully juxtaposed Mafatu's cat and mouse game of survival against a gentle Polynesian canvas. Eventually, the islanders learn they were wrong about Mafatu and welcome him home.

Maybe, in some situations, the most courageous thing we can do is not judge.

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