A couple of moves ago, I was engaged in the sorting process that comes with every move, when I came upon a mysterious dark green trunk. At some point, I must have known what was in it, but my mind was a total blank. And it was locked! It looked familiar, it was definitely mine, but I could not imagine any explanation for a locked trunk. There is nothing like a mystery to peak my imagination.
Miraculously, I found the key right away, and opened it to discover long-forgotten items from my childhood my mother had held onto, and then shipped to me. I was a bit disappointed that the contents were so prosaic, rather than enticing There were a couple of graduation gowns on top (one was mine, not sure who the other one belonged to), scrapbooks, old letters, and then my eye caught on something orange peaking up from the bottom—ah, yes.
Wrapped in tissue, still bright orange after all these years, my Tualatin Twirler Costume! Wow! What a blast from the past.
In grade school, my sister and I were part of a group of young baton twirlers that met on Saturdays in the play shed at the local elementary school. I don’t recall the instructor’s name, but she should have probably been on the short list for sainthood. Imagine trying to get a group of young girls to all move metal sticks in unison, without incurring major injuries. It was a good thing our batons came with rubber tips. I don’t recall any actual blood being shed, but I do remember a lot of dropped batons and trying not to get clobbered by flying batons and we all ran to recover our equipment. And here, reappearing from the mists of time, was my costume: an orange, corduroy, one piece jumper, with a flared skirt, and elasticized white satin shorts. The headband and wrist cuffs were even still there! …with most of the silver sequins intact!
I held the little orange jumper in my lap, and realized I could still remember the first couple of moves to the routine: 1,2, 1 and 2 and… (In my enthusiasm to prove this, I moved my imaginary baton in the required arc and managed to spill coffee all over myself—don’t try this at home.)
We worked faithfully for weeks in that play shed, rain or shine, so we could enter the Junior Rose parade in Portland in June. And, at least in my memory, we looked pretty amazing all lined up in our sparkly orange costumes as we lined up in mostly straight rows to take our place amid floats and musicians. It was overcast and a bit chilly, as June in Portland tends to be, but we didn’t care. We had made it to the big day.
I don’t remember much about how our routine went that day, but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have made it on America’s Got Talent, had such a thing existed back then, but we did get an award—we were the largest group there!
If there was a lesson from being a Tualatin Twirler, it wasn’t about baton twirling. Some of us are just not that gifted with the kind of athleticism, coordination and grace that the real twirlers have. But, I did learn that sometimes I don’t have to be good at something to love it. AND… it is much more fun to be in the parade than to watch it from the sidewalk. Watching a good parade—chatting with friends on the sidelines, waving to friends and acquaintances, laughing at unexpected mishaps, is fun, but it isn’t nearly as great as being in the middle of it all.
And believe it or not, the same can be said about our journey of faith. The church has been criticized widely in recent years for becoming part of the consumer culture, and rightly so. We often forget that being part of the Body of Christ is not about watching from the sidelines until we find the “spiritual goods and services” that most appeal to us. It is easy to be the “audience,” who critique the costumes, rate the performers and laugh at mistakes. It is risky, but there is nothing like being part of the parade, even when we drop our baton and have to go chasing after it into the crowd. The Christian life is always about showing up, practicing, making mistakes and showing up again the next day. The people beside us in our crooked little lines may change from time to time. Sometimes we may lose the rhythm, but ultimately we will realize that there is no place we would rather be. So get your sequins on and grab a baton. See you in the parade. Blessings, Pastor Nancy