Alternate title: Don’t Count Us Out. Or: It Pays to Be Weird. Well, it may not pay financially. But in emotional rewards – hundredfold.
Let’s go with the latter. I was a weird kid. Weird looking and weird acting. This is not me being self-depreciating. There is photographic evidence – which I will not share here – that depicts a scrawny, buck-toothed, squinty-eyed, unibrowed child. In other words, a kid only a mother could love. Mix that with some weird interests and you’ve got a recipe for an outsider. Oh, I had friends, did well in school and wasn’t lurking in some dark corner. But my friends had to put up with, or at the very least ignore, my interests. Because even at a very young age, they were obsessions.
You know how fairy tales often have three as the “magic” number? Bears, pigs, wishes, goats, etc.? My main obsessions numbered three. Judy/Wizard of Oz, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Shirley Temple. Who dressed up as Laura in her SEVENTH GRADE class photo, while the other girls were wearing platform shoes and mini skirts? Who hung a Littlest Rebel poster on her college dorm wall, while others hung Journey? Whose love for all things Wizard inspired a truth-or-dare style Secret Santa freshman year of college, where in order to get a gift you had to parade around in ruby slippers and sweatpants all day? This moi.
Dear lord. It’s a wonder I survived.
Fast forward about a million years. I’m certainly no longer scrawny (as in, AT ALL), had much dental work, use eyeliner to combat the squint, and go nowhere without a sharp pair of tweezers. So I’m somewhat presentable on a good day.
But, as anyone who has ever met me knows, the weird interests are still there. And once in a while, can be put to good use. I mean, didn’t I run a very successful pioneer camp last summer, and have a high enrollment for this July? But nothing, I mean NOTHING, tops the experience my Shirley obsession afforded me yesterday.
A summary: Shirley’s costumes, dolls and personal artifacts have been touring the country, culminating in an auction in July. I spent three glorious days at the exhibit when it was in NJ, bonding (it may have been one-sided) with the auction house president and many other Shirley fans. Subsequently, I decided to attend the auction in Kansas City, MO. Excitement factor – off the charts.
Yesterday, the digital version of the over 300 page auction catalog became available. Obsession kicked into high gear. I spent hours, literally HOURS, glued to the computer, poring over the photos and descriptions. The auction house, with Florence Theriault at its helm, did a remarkable, thorough and well-researched job. I learned more about soutache than I thought was possible.
But there were a few inconsistencies and errors. And because a) I’m a freak and b) can’t mind my own business (so says Mr. T.), I messaged my thoughts to the auction house president (remember, we’ve bonded). And he responded, taking them very seriously. As in, created an addendum to the catalog, which was shipping out at that very moment!! He even called me for further information on a few points! Can you say THRILLING? I couldn’t, because I was almost speechless. A feat in and of itself.
I covered the floors of two room with Shirley books and and ephemera. I had a million computer tabs open and my phone was blowing up, as I engaged in real-time research for the auction house. I checked Shirley film scenes to verify if costumes were worn where they were said to have been worn (note to self: replace those dvds that are now all over the place). I snapped photos and sent them to the president, and spent several HOURS after the phone call sharing thoughts, insights and trivia with him. IT. WAS. HEAVEN. I’m still reeling from it all.
I may be weird, but I’ve said it before – I’m not delusional. I know that I didn’t cure cancer, or homelessness or world hunger. I know my obsession’s pay-off was in the smallest, most inconsequential of ways. But for one glorious day, I was a player in the Shirley world. Minor leagues, of course, but I was on the team.
The point of all this? Don’t count us weirdos out. As a teacher, I’ve come across all types of kids – those that fit in and those that march to a completely different tune. To all of those marchers, I say there is a place for you. It may be a small niche, or it may be at the top of an important heap, but it’s there. And you’ll find it. I did. Not just during yesterday’s thrill-fest, but every day that I teach. Because as I’m putting on the Mrs. Tonnessen Show, I’m doing me. I can incorporate all of my weirdness and turn it into inspiration and passion. And that isn’t inconsequential. Not by a long, long shot.