My “Freeze” Moment

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When the world is too much with us—as it occasionally is for me lately—we often turn to nostalgia. My fellow blogger JP recently wrote a delightful post about a childhood “Freeze” moment: while playing a piece in a piano recital, he lost his place, couldn’t find it, recovered as best he could, and somehow lived through the humiliation.

I guess we all have “Freeze” moments when we wish we could turn back the clock and get a do-over. JP’s post reminded me of mine, which occurred when I was a high school senior. My current self finds all this quite amusing, but those decades ago, my sensibilities were different.

First, some background: In my junior year, I had been a member of what our school called the “Marching Corps.” During half-time of the football games, we marched onto the field carrying large white flag/banners, which we twirled in unison to the band’s music. We assembled ourselves into various choreographed formations—sometimes spelling our high school’s initials, a welcome to the opposing team, or a similar visual. At the same time, the baton twirlers performed their routines. It was great fun.

Then an astonishing thing happened. At the end of the school year, the music director, a very tough-love but inspiring educator, selected me to be THE DRUM MAJORETTE for our senior year.

This was truly a big deal. The drum majorette led the color guard carrying the flags, the band, marching corps, and baton twirlers. It was an honor and a responsibility. My selection also evoked some envy and consternation—Josie Gorman, for one (not her real name) let me know that she was far more suited for the position than I was.

It had never occurred to me that I’d be chosen. All my predecessors had been tall, leggy, statuesque, and usually blonde. I was (e): none of the above. The uniform I inherited required extensive alterations.

And then there was the high hat, topped by a large plume. The rim rested on the frames of my thick eyeglasses. My nose was fine, but the full set of metal braces that uncomfortably filled my small mouth glistened in the sunlight in a manner bereft of any esthetic value. I sometimes worried flocks of birds would be attracted by me, shiny object that I was.

What did that heroic music director see in me when he made his decision? He certainly was far ahead of his time in terms of female stereotyping, bless his heart!

Though I never knew his reasoning for sure, I concluded it was based on his confidence that I knew my right from my left, which may not have been a universal skill among my fellow marchers. He could therefore depend upon me to get the band to its destination in a safe and timely manner. And yes, I could strut up a storm and twirl a baton, though I faked that part in a way that the baton twirling squad never could get away with.

I could do nothing about the braces—they remained with me throughout most of my senior year—but I persuaded my parents that contact lenses were essential. I’m pretty sure I paid for them from my previous summer’s earnings, but that could be a false memory arising from my sense of drama about my plight, as in: Desperate kid scraped up enough to save self from mortification.

Anyway, they agreed, and voila! I got my contacts. I not only felt better—I could also see better, thereby improving my chances of keeping the band intact. (As anyone who’s severely myopic and has been fitted with contact lenses knows, contacts—positioned closer to the eye—can sharpen vision more than glasses do.)

It was a glorious time. On Saturdays during football season, we would march from the high school to the stadium about a half-mile away. Children would line the streets to cheer, and elderly veterans would take off their hats and salute as the American flag passed by. That scene remains vivid to this day and often brings tears to my eyes. To my mind, it was a slice of Americana that holds up in retrospect. We were oblivious to the outside world; all was right in ours.

The final game of the football season was held each Thanksgiving Day, and our rivals were the team from the local parochial school. That game always received the largest attendance of the season, as many alumni returned to see old friends and cheer on their local team.

I was psyched. The weather was great, as I recall, and our practices had been terrific. Everyone looked snappy in our crisp, clean uniforms; we were all dressed up with someplace really special to go.

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The actual image from the back of my jacket, still intact all these years later.

The first half of the game ended, and the players left the field for the locker rooms to rest. The cheerleaders, having energetically bolstered the team with physical and vocal stamina, also got a chance to recharge.

This was our moment. I blew my whistle and marched the band onto the field. Strutting my stuff, I blew my whistle again and held my baton high and to the left, signaling it was time for us all to turn and begin marching into formation.

And then it happened.

I dropped my baton. In front of the crowd in a stadium with nary an empty seat, I dropped my baton.

I quickly bent down to pick it up, but as I did, the band kept marching toward me. That’s when I froze.

Instead of turning around and continuing my strutting and twirling, I spent the rest of the time marching backward. I faced the band while holding my baton in both hands, moving it up and down to slow their advance and prevent them from trampling me. It was inglorious. My magical moment had turned into a self-preservation scramble.

Though I felt that I had disgraced myself and ruined the band’s performance, I don’t recall anyone saying anything to me afterward. Perhaps the crowd assumed I had intended to march backward, directing the band. Maybe they even thought: Look at that drum majorette—she can lead the band marching backward!

Or maybe not. But one thing was clear: nobody cared about it as much as I did—not even the music director whom I felt I’d failed.

These days, I try to practice mindfulness meditation, which encourages focusing on the moment—looking neither forward with worries nor backward with regrets. Mindfulness also urges us to respond to our “inner critic”—that merciless self-judge residing in our heads— with kind acceptance: “OK, so that happened. Interesting, isn’t it?” Though I didn’t know the term at the time, my inner critic was in full mode berating me for my personal catastrophe while most of those around me were oblivious to it.

Obviously, in the scheme of things, my youthful disappointment from dropping my baton was a small blip. And with the passage of time, it hasn’t sullied that happy memory of leading my fellow students through the children’s cheers and veterans’ salutes, never confusing my left from my right, and bringing us all—safely and on time—to our destination.

Please share your reactions, thoughts, and, best of all, your own “Freeze” moment(s) and any lessons learned. I appreciate, enjoy, and often learn from your responses.

Annie

18 thoughts on “My “Freeze” Moment

  1. I agree about how wearing contacts sharpens vision more than glasses do.

    I got contacts in my final year of High School as well.

    My godfather bought them for me as a Christmas present.

    Of course those two years I was homeless this decade, I stopped wearing contacts (the ones I had were getting old and worn out anyways) and wore only glasses which I’ve been wearing ever since.

    I never had a Freeze moment that I can think of.

    There were a few entire years I’d like to be able to do over again but never a single moment at least as I can think of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Christopher–

      I know about those tough years from your writing; I suspect wearing glasses rather than contacts was the least of your concerns then.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and “like” some of my earlier posts as well. I greatly appreciate your support.

      Annie

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Annie — I have so many freeze moments, I wouldn’t know where to begin to list them, let alone recount them. It’s true that few care as much as we think in the moment of disgrace, or at least I hope that’s true. That time, too much coffee, I couldn’t lift a soup spoon at lunch and wondered if my boss thought I had the tremors of alcoholism. That joke, so misplaced, that everyone froze and I was bounced from the scene. That piece of advice I delivered so righteously that no one asked for let alone appreciated. That speaking truth to power, how many times? The burned bridge. The awkward clothing. The heckler in the audience. . . . What sparked for me is your meditative practice. The stay in the moment — no past, no future, or at least no reason to dwell on regret or worry. I’m going to put my energy there, practice, not give up, and see what happens. Thanks for the reminder that there is an option. You’re the best, Annie. D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, Denise–those are the kinds of things that happen when you’re an intelligent, involved person moving through life with passion and guts.

      Glad you find my musings on meditation encouraging. It’s a constant effort, to be sure, and I must continually remind myself to do it. But it makes so much sense, and when it works, it’s really terrific.

      Annie

      Like

  3. You bring back my own memories of summers and autumns spent in a marching band. We trombone players were always in the front row because of our unwieldy instruments so there was always heightened anxiety about a screwup because we so visible. But you were really really visible.
    As you figured out, most of the time such errors either go unnoticed or are immediately forgiven as something normal.
    I was waiting for the tall hat to fall down over your eyes once the supportive glasses were gone. I am so glad that one didn’t happen.

    And thank you for the supportive call out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s entirely possible that the trombone players were the first of the advancing army I faced at the time.

      Of all the things I worried about, the tall hat falling over my eyes had never occurred to me. It’s a funny image. and I, too, am glad that I escaped that indignity.

      As for the supportive call out, you’re most welcome! We learn from each other…that’s an underlying premise of my blog and a reason I so enjoy this process.

      Annie

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I were a maker of film comedies, a scene with the drum major having her hat come down over her eyes while her baton is madly spinning in the air and a dozen trombonists are quickly advancing would be in my next project. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing a slice of your life Annie. We are our own worst critics and magnify our tiny mistakes into gigantic errors……and talking of contact lenses. I have been wearing glasses since I was 13, but when I reached 40 decided to try contact lenses. The optometrist had a tough time trying to insert the contact lenses in my eyes as they kept twitching so much. When they were finally placed in my eyes I passed out. The concerned optometrist shook me gently and asked if I was okay. I replied that I was going to throw up. She fetched the garbage container and I retched into it. It took her another 10 minutes to get the contact lenses out. I stuck with my eye glasses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Len–
      I’ve heard numerous stories of failed attempts with contact lenses over the years–many people get squeamish about anything coming near their eyes–but yours is definitely the most dramatic.

      Here’s the good news: If you ever need cataract surgery in the future, you’ll subsequently find yourself with excellent vision without contacts. I needed cataract removal precociously–well before most people do. And after a quick surgery and minimal discomfort, I discovered the joys of waking up in the morning and being about to see the clock across the room without fumbling for my glasses. I now wear glasses only when driving at night in unfamiliar places and can read the tiniest print without any external aid.

      It’s one of the more beneficial aspects of the aging process.

      Like

  5. Annie,
    Good story. The way you seamlessly transitioned to marching backwards apparently left the crowd assuming this was the way it was supposed to be. Otherwise someone would have commented, including your friend Josie Gorman, band members etc.
    Also amazing is the detail you remember leading up to the event as well as the event itself.
    Do you recall your HS graduation ceremony with a fraction of the detail?
    It’s good you could tell left from right, as opposed to the other members of the marching band. Guess that skill wasn’t required for graduation at your high school
    .
    I’m sure I’ve had Freeze moments but, as with my high school graduation ceremony, these memories can no longer be recalled. Don

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Don–
      I know from your comment on my “Only Connect” post that you’ve been having trouble with these likes and comments, so I’m happy things seem to be working now.

      “Seamlessly transitioned?” If only. Nice of you to put it that way, but it was actually a desperation tactic to avoid the headline: “Drum Majorette Run Over by Marching Band…”

      Unfortunately, I don’t remember very much about my high school graduation. But memories are very capricious. I definitely don’t recall anyone remarking about my then-calamity, but it’s conceivable that some people did, and I’ve buried those comments deep in my subconscious. Not the music director, though–I would have remembered that for sure. And not Josie Gorman, either. She wasn’t a friend before I was selected, and she never spoke with me again once the decision was made.

      Annie

      Like

  6. Hi Annie,
    I’ve had a freeze moment a couple of months ago during my boss’s farewell party. He was my mentor and I respected him a lot. Since he was a fairly social person, there were lots of people assembled from the higher management also. I had prepared and by-hearted a speech the previous day and never had trouble in public speaking. But when the moment came, I just stopped in the middle. I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say and I somehow managed with an awkward laughter. The situation was quite embarrassing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi to you! Ah, public speaking—often cited as one of the major fears most people have. But evidently not for you in general. Perhaps your freeze was due to the presence of higher management. At any rate, I’m sure that just as in my example, an incident that was embarrassing to you was insignificant to everyone else.

      And welcome to annieasksyou! I hope you’ll share your thoughts and stories with us often.

      Cheers,
      Annie

      Liked by 1 person

  7. i loved this…perhaps because I can definitely relate to your experience.

    I had a similar mortifying experience in High School. I was a senior and I was passionate about dancing, having taken ballet and jazz classes since the age of four. I joined the High School dance club and I was chosen to choreograph a dance routine for the club members (including myself) to perform at an assembly for the entire school. It was close to Thanksgiving and the dance routine was to be to the music of Turkey in the Straw. I worked very hard and two months later we mastered the routine and were ready to perform. The routine required that small groups of 4 would dance to the front of the stage, do their routine and then exit and return to the back of the stage while the next group advanced to the front. When it came to my group’s turn I miscalculated when we were supposed to advance and ended up doing the whole thing alone, totally confusing the other three and causing them to lose their turn. I was mortified and got teased about it for months. My sister, who was a sophomore, was in the audience and still teases me about it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it qualifies as a “Freeze” moment because you knew what you were supposed to do and…well, it didn’t happen. Forgive me, but the imagery made me laugh.

        And interesting that both our moments occurred around Thanksgiving, leaving us not so thankful for our actions…

        Liked by 1 person

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