Behind a Convenient Tree

As I wrote the first two posts for this blog, I had the image of myself as that character on TV who isn’t invited to the funeral, the one who shows up anyway, watching from behind a convenient tree. (I suppose I should explore why my first impulse was to link life to a funeral, but I think I’ll let that one sit for a while. I can’t say I like funerals, exactly, but I do prefer them to weddings. I might need a therapist.) Whenever I see that scene, I always think it’s ridiculous. You’re standing right there! You’ll be noticed! What are you thinking? I confess, when my parents died, I did not think to scan the cemetery for people hiding behind trees. It never entered my mind, so maybe it’s not that far-fetched for someone to lurk on the edges of this sacred event and remain unnoticed.

How did I become that person? I don’t remember feeling that way as a very young child. The world was comfortably small then, just the right size. I wasn’t aware that there were larger events from which I might be excluded. Life wasn’t something other people had that I lacked. That feeling must have come later. I wish I could recall how or when it crept in. I suspect school played a part. That might be where I learned that I was other, that I was invisible.

Invisible wasn’t a bad thing in my childhood. My family life was somewhat chaotic, so going unnoticed provided protection. I want to say I liked it, but every time I type those words, my pinky jabs the delete button until they disappear. My body knows I didn’t like it at all. I wanted to be seen! I wanted being seen to be safe.

I was a ham at heart. I sat under the kitchen table or on the back stairs and belted out songs, knowing that whomever was within earshot had to listen. I put on shows for any one who came to the house. Singing. Dancing. Acting out scenes from Laurel and Hardy with my brother. My mother, with the infinite wisdom of a woman who needs a break from a demanding child, signed me up for a community theater group. It was heaven! I could act up, act out and be rewarded with all the laughter and applause my little heart craved.

Unlike dance classes, theater stuck. I never progressed past the low-budget community theater productions I started in, but I dreamed about being an actress. I wished I had the talent, looks, confidence, luck, support it would take to pursue a life on stage. Being other people was the ultimate way to be seen while remaining invisible. I wasn’t uncomfortable in front of an audience. I wasn’t overthinking my own adolescent awkwardness or teen insecurities. I could be that same little kid who went to do theater in the park, among the trees, with a local teacher who had an enormous love for invisible children.

Now I blog. I wasn’t invited, I just showed up, assuming I won’t be noticed. Not sure how I’ll react if I am.

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