December 1955: Time for the annual Christmas Show at the small country school in northern Indiana. Throughout the month my mother labored to make a panda bear costume for me to wear for my very small part in the pageant. It could not have been easy for her to accomplish the chore, though she had sewn all my clothes in years prior: now she had two younger children, one a babe in arms. But it was Big Time for her first grader: I may have been the only one from my class of 18 to be included in the all-school production. She was proud.
As she fitted me with the costume, pinning and primping to assure the fit, she whispered a stage instruction in my ear: “roll a somersault in the middle of the stage when you enter.” She taught me how. I loved it, practicing it often, all over the house. I may have had no line, but I would be noticed for the clever, lively mannerism, so like a joyful bear. I would be a star, as my mother desired.
We rehearsed it together to assure that the full body costume with its oh so pert ears would not rip to embarrass the panda bear toy, the child recipient and Santa actors, or the audience.
The big moment came. I pranced and skipped across the stage and made my way to my mark. But I didn’t somersault. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t risk in the moment. Unexpectedly shy I was.
I’m sorry, Mother. Hear me up in heaven: I think I’ve bowled over bashfulness. I like the stage of life now.