The Great Baton Catastrophe

 When I was younger, we’re talking like kindergarten or so, my grandmother (who was also my legal guardian) decided that it would be a good idea to get me involved in an extra-curricular activity.  While I wasn’t exactly opposed to the idea I was envisioning something akin to a fairy princess meeting or at the very least a guest spot on Sesame Street.
But alas, those options just weren’t in the cards.  She brought me…a baton.  Seriously?  You bring a baton to one of the klutziest kids on the block?  As if I wasn’t enough of an outcast to begin with she decided that I needed a little more punishment.

Of course, what I saw was this:

You hear all of these stories about how kids are encouraged to try new things, to branch out into the unfamiliar.  These tales are usually concluded with epic details of triumph akin to Forrest Gump beating the odds or Bill and Ted managing to ace their history report.  It was firmly believed that not only would this baton class improve my substandard social skills but I was being put on the road to the Baton Hall of Fame.  I was to cast off the shroud of self-doubt and succeed where others had failed.  I was supposed to be the Baton God.

It didn’t quite happen that way.  Not only was I forced to wear a uniform that left NOTHING to the imagination below the equator, I also came to realize that unless I had a death grip on that hated aluminum rod the thing was sure to fly out of my hands with a force usually reserved for quarterbacks in the Super Bowl.
After several…incidents…my baton instructor decided to tell me (in full view of the class, mind you) that I was to grip the baton in my fist and under no circumstances was I to let go of it.  Most baton tricks require you to spin the baton between your fingers.  Not only was I unable to do this, I was forbidden from trying.  That was fine by me.  We had been informed that our baton troupe would be performing in a parade down a main street in the city as part of a holiday celebration and I was in no hurry to chase that baton through an area that didn’t have walls or light fixtures to prevent it from flying too far.

So the big day came.  My grandmother of course had made sure that everyone in the family would be there to witness what she was sure would be my smash debut.  She didn’t even question why she had to drag me out of bed, drag me into the bathtub, drag me to the breakfast table, then drag me to the car.  She blamed it on nerves.  She said that the jitters would only make me better.

She dropped me off at the community center then left to stake out the best seat along the parade route.  My instructor made certain that everyone’s shoes were tied and took a few minutes to drill into us the importance of smiling even if you make a mistake.  “No one will even notice,” she assured us.  “So long as you keep smiling!”  No one would notice?  Hell I was going to outsmile my entire class!

 Despite shaking knees and a pounding heart I smiled like an idiot and marched behind all of the adequate twirlers like the little wind up doll I had become.  I could hear the murmurs of pity coming from the crowd through the sound of the marching band behind us.  When we finally passed my family I could see my grandmother wearing her fake smile.  The same one she usually saved for the days when I brought her a beautiful bouquet of roses that I had plucked from her beloved rose bushes or an amazing mud pie made of part mud and part horse poo.  After the baton troupe passed her seat her head flopped down into her hands.

Once the agony of the parade was over I was left with nothing more than sore cheeks and a cramp in my wrist from holding the baton so tightly.  My grandmother met me back at the community center and ushered me out to the car with barely a smile to my instructor.  We made it home where she sat me down and asked me if I liked baton class.

My answer?  An emphatic NO.

So she told me that I didn’t have to be in it if I didn’t want to.

Really?  All it takes to get out of something that you despise is abject humiliation?  This was a lesson that would stick with me through my teen years, much to my dismay.  But for the time being I was content.  No more baton class!  I was free to return to my usual play…this time with a new archenemy for the Cabbage Patch Dolls to vanquish!

What happened next?  What will the next chapter hold?  Stay tuned.  It could be the Great Adventure of the Shopping Bag Parachute or even the Tale of a Resentful Girl Scout!

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