It’s strange that the fear that grips me so easily these days had no place in my 6 year old psyche. I voluntarily agreed to perform a nursery rhyme in front of the entire school and teaching body at the end of year prize- giving. It never occurred to me not to.
That morning my mother combed out my coarse, candy-floss hair and tugged it into tight, perfectly symmetrical plaits that started above my ear. She secured them with red Bobbles, round elastics with plastic orbs on the ends that I occasionally whipped around over my shoulders and sucked on when I was bored.
My hair was always a contentious issue with my mother. She had fair, fine straight hair. My hair was unruly and rebellious; and on special occasions had to be plastered down with Bryl Crème.
My grandmother called the wayward fluff that often escaped from their ponytail prisons “anoster bossies”: wild bushes, not a cultural term of endearment evidently. My hair could not deny my heritage.
On prize-giving day, I wore a red and white polka dot dress that flared out at my knee, white lacy socks that came up to meet the edge of the dotty dress and my black “tap shoes”. They were black patent leather Mary Janes which my mother had bought at Edgar’s but I wore them to dance furiously on the tiled entrance hall of our house, mimicking Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in White Nights.
Shuffle. Shuffle. Slide.
Until my father yelled at me to stop, which was often. Because he had a hangover. Which was more often.
I stood on that rickety stage in that vast hall and delivered a show-stopping performance of ‘Mary had a Little Lamb”, with actions. I was brave, I was fearless; I did not care for the opinions of others. And I loved the subsequent rousing applause.
Where has that courage gone? Why do I now, 33 years later, shrink at the prospect of standing out? Of taking leaps of baseless faith? Of basking in the brilliance of all that I am? Why am I drenched in insecurity and dripping with self-conscious anxiety?
Today, that changes. Today, I will take a wholly uncalculated risk.
Today, I will write.
What if I fall?
Oh but my darling, what if you fly?