October 18, 2013 § Leave a comment


My mother performed many death-defying acts, but the ones in my lifetime were usually for small crowds, maybe even just for her own amusement or for our humiliation. There were legends, though, of her brief career as a high school Majorette, twirling a fire baton. This is hard to imagine, since she was 5 feet 2 on her own, but maybe 5 feet 5 with her teased and sprayed high school hairdo. I’ve seen pictures: It’s a wonder she never set herself aflame.  She also had the boots, white leather with a little heel. Tassel in the center at the top, so it would shake when she walked.  Her hips would too. She had that going on. Years of dance classes had set that up. Dance classes and a drum beat. That stuff gets inherited, so I know about it. Like the old blues song says about the boy and the boogie woogie, “It’s in him, and it’s got to come out.”  She had it in her.

She said  that they practiced without the fire. The fire was for special occasions when crowds would be watching. I imagine the whole band spread in a yellow jacket formation across the football field at half time, and my mom, short and curvy, in the middle of the stinger, other girls with more cautious parents to her sides, but my mom in the center all lit up and twirling. My grandmother, no doubt would have been front row in the bleachers, making sure my mom’s hair stayed in place and she didn’t smudge the bright red lipstick, because, after all, my grandmother’s reputation as a beautician would have been on the line. It wouldn’t have done for her daughter to catch fire. This is passed down too.

I wonder what she thought about after she winged the baton up in the air and the crowd oohed and ahhed. In those seconds before she caught it, was she counting the circles she made in the same spot, or was she praying she wouldn’t get hit on the head and go out in some unintended blaze of glory? I never saw this, like I said, it was legend, but I did see the baton. I know it existed, and so that part of my mom does too, death defying.


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