The only “talent” show I remember being in was in third grade, when me and two friends played the theme song to the Greatest American Superhero on our flutes. The other third graders sat indian-style on the floor and the three of us positioned our chairs in a tight huddle so we could share sheet music and pretend no one else was there. I still have the recording somewhere and it is just as painful as you might imagine, only worse. During recess, the three of us pretended to be cats and dogs having adventures and once we got into a real cat-and-dog fight over something I do not remember now, though I do remember how everyone stared because my face got all red and welty from crying. I’ve never worn emotion well.
My youngest was in her first talent show last weekend. She’s in kindergarten, so her act consisted of three 5-year olds narrowly missing each other with a dizzying array of willy nilly half-cartwheels, one-legged jumping and devil-may-care spinning. Each act was limited to two minutes, which is about 30 seconds longer than the average person’s attention span for amateur gymnastics, though you get to add an additional 15 seconds if the kids are cute, and kindergartners are really really cute.
During the talent show, I sat through 4 renditions of Katy Perry’s Roar. For the math-impaired, I have a calculator, so sit back and let me handle this. That’s 480 seconds of feel-good earworm, but none moreso than when a 2nd grade girl in a glittery fedora and MJ gloves belted it out and moved me to tears. In addition to weddings and many movies, I also cry at dance recitals and talent shows. The subtle wiping of each eye a half-minute apart is as much a dead giveaway as a red, welty face.
We were in the car the next day when my kindergartner asked me how come the 2nd grade girl could sing so good. You and I know some people just have it. They’re born with it, whether it’s a set of pipes that make old ladies tear up in darkened auditoriums or a natural grasp of calculator-free math or maybe it’s writing or pie making or oil painting. These are god’s gifts, though they are of no use if they don’t get used, and so I told my girl “She practiced.”
This answer didn’t satisfy my girl and she asked me how the 2nd grader practiced and I told her she sang the song over and over again and got better and better at it. Minutes later I heard a tiny little voice singing from the backseat and I smiled and we drove someplace to make things together out of clay that look like they were all made by a kindergartner, which is an insult to kindergartners everywhere.
Practice may not make perfect, but it makes almost anything easier. Each day I didn’t drink in the early days made it easier to get through the next day. Each time I go out for a run, it builds muscle and lung for the next run. Writing feels more fluid and fun as I write more. I’m staying away from cartwheels and singing, but with enough practice I bet I could move you to tears of some kind or another.
Whatever you want, stick with it. Don’t give up.
And here’s one more picture because how often do you get to post a picture of 3/4 of your family on a couch flanked by storm troopers? Not often enough, I say.