do a little dance – The Handmade Home

do a little dance – The Handmade Home

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It was the summer of 1998 and I had just graduated high school. I was finally free from my roots, ready to spread my wings, and knew I was off to do big things. Like lay out by the pool and call my friends so we could all perfect the art of being awkward. Okay fine. Everyone else was cute and I was the awkward one. Shocker, I know. It was the perfect beginning to some summer teenage angst movie. Or something.

Except my dad had bigger plans and scored, for me, a summer job at a local marketing agency. He knew the owner, and it was one of those, hey-friend-do-you-need-assistance-this-summer-because-my-kid-has-zero-grip-on-reality, things. He was looking out for my future so I nervously sat through the interview in my white blouse and skirt ensemble I’d picked out with my mom for graduation. I clutched my ‘resume’ that consisted of high school yearbook positions that were impressive to absolutely no one. I should list something else here that is also unimpressive though I think that pretty much ran the depth of my non-potential at the time.

It was later that day when I found out I’d landed the position. And by landed the position, see my initial point that my dad basically called in a favor. I was to be an intern, and by intern, I mean glorified task person. And by glorified task person, see a blend of babysitting for the owner, answering the phones, vacuuming the display room, {I still hate vacuuming to this day} and deliveries.

DE. LIV. ER. IES.

I was to be a runner.

This little factoid made me beyond panicky since I have absolutely no sense of direction. Recalling this story in itself makes my blood pressure rise. The important corporate people would send me out on errands that were only to be a thirty minute journey. They’d call me three hours later wondering where I was. I’d be sitting in a scary abandoned lot, on the verge of tears, ready to crawl into the nearest cardboard box and live there. People would then say unhelpful things to me like “head west” and I would cry until I found an interstate and turned it around.

I still can’t believe I didn’t die that summer.

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Complicating matters further, these were the days long before smart phones. Or even the regular use of cell phones. I had the uniform blue Nokia phone, which was basically  a brick with a sleek phone cover. I could successfully eliminate any psychopath trying to pull me into their kidnapper van, if I simply threw it. By my calculations, their skull would implode in .2 seconds from the sheer impact to their upper regions. Who needs the police? I would defend myself and then drive to the local cops and tell them where to find the body.

If I could get back to it…

There were no Google Maps or Siri. Just a few directions scribbled on a sheet of paper and an address. I had little booklets stored in my car printed from Yahoo maps, because I was savvy and also because anxiety. Me, my Neon, and my Nokia. And probably a little Alanis Morrissette for good company.

Help me, sweet Lordt.

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But it wasn’t all vacuuming and deliveries. Let it be established here that as a young, budding designer with no real direction in my life, I was given a few opportunities to help with some small design projects. Like the one where I hand-drew a coloring book for a local company in Alabama. I also helped design a local mascot costume to go with it… and by design, I mean we had a conversation on the phone and per the client’s requests, a local seamstress put it all together. And by local seamstress, I mean someone’s grandma stowed away in an attic, and allowed out for special sewing time. All that aside, it was a great first-time kind of project to participate in. Especially since the lead designer quit and I was the official office lackey.

I don’t remember the company. I don’t remember the gist of it all or the point, though I do believe it had something to do with energy and spreading awareness to kids. I’ve tried googling. But I do remember my delivery that day. Because I can assure you this gigantic preface has an ending of epic proportions, so stay with me.

I hopped into my little green Neon, raised my right arm facing into the golden morning sun and said “For NAAARRRNNIIIAAAAA!!!!” As I carefully puttered backwards out of my parking space. I then proceeded with my usual, un-successful changing of directions about twenty times in the course of said journey.

What was to be an hour’s journey morphed into 2.5. I remember squinting at the words “Tallasee” on the road and rejoicing that I had not, in fact, died. By the time I finally made the delivery, it had been quite the haul from my home base, Birmingham.

But there I was, a little sweaty from sheer anxiety and relief, ready to deliver those boxes of hand-drawn coloring books that I was oh so proud of. And a costume in a box. I mean, this was my first real live creation as a designer and as you may well know, it was kind of a big deal.

I remember arriving at the front desk with boxes in tow, through big glass doors and an immaculate, two story lobby area. It was the kind where footsteps and phone calls reverberated for days. A little sweaty from the July day, waiting to see whoever was in charge, I waited like a good little minion. I basically wanted someone to take the delivery so I could leave. His name was probably something important sounding like Robert. They could call him Bob but he prefers to go by Robert. I’d been given his name at the top of the oddly scrawled directions that I now no longer remember since this was half my own lifetime ago.

So Robert cascaded out of an elevator in a suit, and he was thrilled with the coloring books. He thanked me and shook my hand. But then said oh so jovially, “Could you follow me?”

Clearly, I have no photos of this incident. Thus, pretty house photos shall suffice.

A lady at the desk gave me a smile, and I obliged, because she was wearing one of those important Madonna mics and her job looked fake-important. Timidly following him through another big glass door and into a room where a few more people were clustered in more suits, I was suddenly feeling a bit under dressed as the sweaty delivery girl.

It was here that Bob thrust the costume in a large box, back into my hands and said, “We’re so glad that you’re here! Do us a favor and put this on?”

“I’m sorry?” I stammered, balancing the giant cardboard box between my hands and knee. At this point I was ready to get back on the road. I mean, I’d gotten lost and it was late and I was awkwardly sweating on my one nice blouse, wobbling in my platform sandals. My job was done.

I had no idea what he meant by “Put this on”. But I smiled and nodded and obliged while he mumbled something, because I was the intern, and this was probably what our company would want. I should be a real team player and deliver my work with pride, and stuff. So a lady in a pencil skirt lead me to a bathroom and it was there I was left alone. In a completely strange place. Just me and the mascot costume.

It was like this, but with zero dignity and self preservation and balance in general – and a heavy costume – so basically nothing like this.

But it wasn’t just any costume. Think oddly contrived Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meets a pudgy Statue of Liberty vibe. Almost as if the statue of liberty were made of wax and then left out in the sun just long enough so that she now has oddly proportioned lumps. With a giant paper maché head that looked more like a green bell pepper, and was twice the width of my own scraggly teenager body. It came with a wide opening in the mouth to see through, so that the wearer wouldn’t go completely impaired.

If one looked closely at someone else wearing the costume, it really seemed as though someone had been swallowed by a psychotic sewage turtle with a garish smile. And no worries, because it was balanced out with an equally giant paper maché shell to wear on one’s back. I mean, I would hate to be ill-proportioned and stuff.

All of this was combined with a sweatsuit kinda unitard thing, and a super man-esque logo, except this time it stood for ‘Speedy the Turtle’ or something similar. Remember, I tried to google. Nothing to be found.

Maybe there’s a reason for that.

So I fumbled my way into the costume, and placed the heavy bell pepper turtle head on my own bony shoulders, where it nearly toppled me. From there, I awkwardly side-shuffled back through the large bathroom door and found my way back to the suits who had been waiting in the hallway.

Let’s not forget the platform sandals, since the costume didn’t come with shoes. Giant head. Unitard weird sweat combo. Platform sandals. User beware.

It was hot. I was very much aware of my own labored breathing in the giant globe head. Everything echoed. And my vision was limited through the horizontal slit of the giant scary spawn a-la the Statue of Liberty and Michelangelo the Mutant Turtle.

Let me be clear… I was not getting paid for this. 

Someone took my hand, and I was lead back into the sarcophagus of an entryway. Except this time, it was echoing with voices.

And there was Bob, making a jumbled announcement over a small microphone {a fancier version than the receptionist madonna mic} that ended with an introduction.

To an entire crowd of people.

There I was, standing in front of a couple of hundred employees, who had all been summoned into the lobby. They wound from the floor up to the giant open stairway and the balcony above. And through my muffled view of a paper maché mouth slit, they were doing a half clap, half smile…

For Speedy the Turtle.

This wasn’t exactly in the job description.

So I did what anyone else would do after driving a few hours in the wrong direction to deliver some coloring books and a scary costume at the young age of eighteen, on a record-high July day in Alabama.

And I did a little dance.

But it wasn’t just any dance. It was the first one that came to my head when I was thrust into a random mascot costume and expected to perform… Something I conjured immediately under pressure with at least two hundred sets of eyes on me in the suddenly-crowded lobby.

I threw one finger into the air and one hand on my hip, and did an unfortunate Charleston shuffle. But let me reiterate here that I’m not exactly known for my standing skills, let alone my dancing ones. So with an odd circular motion, not so much like Fred Astaire, reminiscent of an octogenarian with a bad back. My feet squeaked across the tile floor and echoed onto the giant walls while everyone stared.

And my head wobbled like a gigantic bobblehead.

And the crowd, {read: slightly confused group of employees called away from their jobs to look at an odd kid in a turtle suit} went wild.

To this day, I’m still not sure if they were laughing with, or at me. On the bright side, at least I was anonymous?

And I took a bow, only to remember that my head might fall off. I struggled upward, barely able to stand straight again.

Why have I shared this self depreciating story?

Because sometimes in your journey, you might be at the very beginning. You might get really far, and then have to start all over. You might be dealing with something kind of hard. You just may struggle to get out of the bed in the mornings, and put one foot in front of the other. You might have a new job with insurmountable challenges. A new chapter with unexpected plot twists. You might be at the beginning all over again. You might be really frustrated. Sometimes, life sucks.

Things can be unpredictable and challenging and a little unexpected, just like a struggling summer intern in an oddly proportioned turtle head that weighs more than her.

No matter where you are on the journey, you have to start somewhere.

You may as well make the best of it… and do a little dance.

Pssst: See an additional angsty post of my not-so-glory-days, here. 


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