If you had an old, long-forgotten trunk stored away in a cob-webbed corner of your attic, or a dark, shadowy corner of your basement, what would you find if you were to drag it out of its hiding place? What treasures would you uncover, hidden away these many years? What memories would escape, like moths taking flight once again?
Like me, I’m sure you’ve so many memories of bygone days, some further back, only fragments remaining. Sorting through them isn’t easy. Their essence is so ephemeral, after all. Is it one complete remembrance, or is it a collage of several? Where does one leave off, and another begin? Unwinding memories can be like pulling on a single thread, and watching a sweater unravel, until nothing remains but handfuls of yarn. But I think reminiscences are made of stronger stuff than articles of clothing that are eventually tossed out, or given away. Of your own free will, you could never be rid of your memories.
Image via Wikipedia
One of my fondest memories is of a time in high school, when I was recognized by the nuns as a budding choreographer. The St. Anthony Girl’s High School that I attended in Wailuku, Maui in the 60s, was a relic from another era. There was a Boy’s School as well, but it sat across the parking lot, on the other side of the campus. There were very few occasions, very few, when the student bodies would interact. Teenage boys and girls could only strain their necks, trying to ogle each other from a long distance away. Binoculars would’ve been handy. I should have had a concession. No. Too capitalistic for Catholic nuns.
I can’t remember if anything I staged for school assemblies, held in the cafeteria, was performed for a gathering of both student bodies. It wouldn’t have mattered to me, except that the butterflies in my stomach would have multiplied sizeably in number. After all, how often did I have more than a hundred guys staring at me all at once? Never! I repeat. Never! Still don’t.
I can recollect 3 particular instances when I entertained my fellow students. I did a modern interpretation of a popular Peter, Paul and Mary folk song at the time, “Blowin in the Wind.”
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I vaguely remember starting the piece lying prone on the floor, and eventually dragging myself into an upright position. Slaves were my inspiration, what they had to endure to survive, another day, another month, another year. I delivered my performance with great anguish, felt in every moral fiber of my spirit, every muscle of my body. The nuns hailed it as my entre into the professional world of choreography. I took their acclamations in stride. At the time, and considering my mom’s personal financial straits, New York and Broadway were as far away as the moon.
But I went on to bigger and better productions. I choreographed a number from West Side Story, which one I can’t recall. Perhaps it was “I Want To Be In America.” Setting the piece on my best friend, Lee, and myself, we had a blast dancing it. She was also my romantic lead in an Asian fairytale that I wrote, at least I think I wrote it. The title of the play escapes me, although it contained the word “runner.” And no, it wasn’t “The Road Runner.” Besides Lee as a princess, me as the poor peasant pining for her, and her disapproving father, there was a green dragon. Of papier-mache and medium height, it was also one of my artsy concoctions. I’ve an old, black-and-white photo of the 4 of us buried somewhere in an antique blanket-chest. But don’t look for it in this post. It’d take me days, if not longer, to unearth.
Cover of Flower Drum Song
A final memory, not a favorite, is of a solo I choreographed to “Happy Talk” from the movie “Flower Drum Song.” I imagined myself as the beautiful, Eurasian actress Nancy Kwan.
Nancy Kwan Looks Back on an All-Asian ‘Groundbreaking’ Film
Nancy Kwan recalls that the 1961 film version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “Flower Drum Song” was such a big hit with audiences, “I used to go to Chinese restaurants and get Chinese for free all the time! It was very well-received. We were very proud because it was an all-Asian cast and it made money.”
Kwan, a vivacious 62, played Linda Low, a beautiful and ambitious performer in a Chinatown nightclub in San Francisco. Although her singing was dubbed, Kwan had several memorable dance numbers including “I Enjoy Being a Girl” and “Grant Avenue.”
Gosh, wasn’t she gorgeous? For this number, I sat upon my haunches, using only my hands to gesture the lyrics. I was appropriately attired in a sleeveless, Chinese top, with a cooly’s hat perched on my head. Why I performed the piece in an outdoor assembly of both the girls and boys student bodies, I’ll never know, but I did.
Standing very close to where I performed, were my boyfriend and his friends. Of course I was in my “element,” or so I thought. As I began to move my arms, the strapless bra I decided to wear so that straps wouldn’t slip down my arm as I danced, began inching its way down my chest, almost nonexistent at the time. I literally sweat through that number, constantly trying to maneuver my bra back into place. It was the longest 4 or 5 minutes of my life, and a memory that I’ve not relished telling. But at my age, there are so many others that far surpass that one in remaining buried at the very, very bottom…of my trunk of old memories.
remember some of yours?…hugmamma.