I can see it in my daughter’s eyes. The willingness to perform. A flair for the dramatic. The moment her mind goes to a world of fantasy and magic.
As I stand back and watch her sing to herself in a mirror, I’m transported back to my childhood.
We’re bound by a penchant for theatricality. At her age, my nickname was Sarah Heartburn. Like my daughter, I never shied away from a moment in the spotlight. It’s why I became a professional dancer.
While I love that we have this in common, I also fear she’ll have to experience the harsh world of the arts and all of the rejection and insecurity that can come with it.
When I was a kid, I lived for the theater. A flyer announcing an audition for the school musical started it all. I remember my mom asking me “Can you even sing??” and having to belt out the Star Spangled Banner for her as proof.
My first performance, an intelligent role as a kid carting around an invisible dog, garnered rave reviews (from my grandmother and mother). After that, I was cast in every school musical throughout elementary school. And I loved it.
My mother started sending me to community theater camps in the summer to keep my thirst satisfied. I wasn’t very good, but I was content to play supporting cast roles. The popcorn I got to eat as one of the friends of the March sisters in Little Women was the highlight of my career.
Until Nickelodeon put my face on television.
Producers from You Can’t Do That on Television came to town, looking for kids to question for the interview portion of the show. Luckily, I was one of the chosen kids from our school to camp out in the library and answer questions around cameras and lights.
And Christine “Moose” McGlade.
I don’t remember being all butterflies and jitters at the time. I was a big fan of the show and was excited to meet its star actor, and I think I was most worried about getting slimed.
Then the shows got broadcast.
When they originally aired, watching myself on television was nothing short of awesome. Look Ma! I’m on TV! I felt like a celebrity at school. I felt I was destined for stardom. I even saved Christine McGlade’s autograph.
Years later, a boy in high school recognized me and proceeded to make me feel embarrassed about my television appearance in front of my entire Geometry class. With that remark, what once made me feel cool and privileged was replaced with embarrassment, humiliated by my childish answers, buckteeth and bad hair.
Decades passed, and over time, I forgot all about my little stint on Nickelodeon.
Then, the Internet happened.
Now, all of those old episodes are posted up on YouTube for anyone and everyone to see. So one day, I swallowed my pride and did a search.
There are two episodes that are up and running, and together with my kids, I finally took a peek at them after almost 30 years.
At first glance, I only saw what was embarrassing. I must have been shaking my leg under the table in a fit of nerves, and as a result, I looked like I was having a seizure. My answers were nonsensical. And let’s not even talk about my snaggletooth and deeply southern accent.
But on second (and third and tenth) viewing, I saw something else.
The same look I’ve seen in my daughter’s eyes.
Drawn in to the whole experience with starstruck optimism and a boundless sense of imagination.
I hope that she never loses it like I did. I hope she never has someone stomp her accomplishments in to a sense of shame. I hope she follows her heart and dreams to whatever makes her happiest.
And I hope that she remembers to keep her legs still under the table if she ever gets interviewed.
Want to see my stint on YCDTOTV? Cue up to 16:57 and enjoy!