There are a couple of things that thrill me about this photo of 11 year old me. Let’s start with the obvious: I look very tall here. It was probably the last time I felt tall around anyone. Sure, it might be because I’m dancing with a child who might have been five, but in comparison to the other girls, I still had potential to become adult-sized someday.
The next thing that amuses me: I’m wearing a skirt. Demure and nun-like even at 11, I was making my wardrobe work for me. Just because it was a neighborhood, basement production, there was no reason to skimp on style, or be too daring.
Lastly, and the thing that amuses me most about this photo, the writing on the back reads: “Us in a show produced by me.” It’s not a remarkable sentence if you grew up in Hollywood or New York in a theatrical/”industry” family– but this photo was taken in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio in the near summer of 1980. I’m fairly certain that I did my fair share of choreography for this performance, as well as some melodramatic renditions of Barry Manilow’s hits of the day. I’d like to say that I was a gifted child with stunning artistic ability. Mostly, I think these shows came together because I was incredibly bossy and organized.
My parents were there, of course, along with the other neighborhood parents/kids/people who couldn’t escape the vortex. Perhaps they were witnessing the birth of a soon to be long dormant career. Perhaps they really couldn’t figure out how to politely decline.
I can’t help but look at this picture and wonder about the girl I see. She had all of these fanciful notions about who she would become: doctor, detective, spy, ballerina and writer– all at the same time (because there was no sense in getting limited by just one career at a time). She had her crushes and an absolute sense of self. I think I lost the girl in this photo for a while– somehow the world of possibilities became narrowed down to a handful of “lesser evil” options. Sure, I’m still bossy. That hasn’t changed. You can feel relieved about that. Still, every problem could be solved in this girl’s world with some grim determination and a little creative thinking. She was a force of nature.
I want to believe that she has started to emerge again since quitting the job. I see little signs of rebellion growing daily. There’s a little bit more openness — a willingness to entertain extreme possibilities.
And the really good news? I can still deliver a powerful performance of Copacabana.
Coming to a basement near you…