An Errant Style Show: Counting on God’s Sense of Humor and Love
By Nita Gilger
In the 9th grade, I became a model. Well....maybe it was when I became more of a comedian. What happened is that I took a Home Economics class which I did not enjoy. In the class we had to make a dress. There were no guys in the class which is probably part of the reason for my dislike. Anyway, I picked out the simplest, straightest, A-line shift I could find a pattern for in the McCall's Pattern book at the fabric store. Really it was two straight seams, a zipper, making the neck, arm holes (it was sleeveless and no collar) and putting in a hem. In truth. it was an absolute disaster. To this day I do not know how I got it misaligned so horribly. Even so, the pressure was on because grades were due and we had to wear our dresses in a school-wide style show. There was no time or desire to make a different dress. I just had to go for it. As I walked onto the stage on the make-shift, plywood catwalk, I made a decision. The ill-formed dress made me look as though I had some physical challenge because it did not even begin to be level or straight at the hemline. I messed up putting in the side seams so the dress pulled to one side rather dramatically. The zipper puckered and on and on. Let’s just say it was a problem dress from the get go. At first, I thought about choosing to be embarrassed or boycotting the show. Instead, I seized the day. All the other participants walked very obediently straight out and back and ALL of them had beautiful outfits. When it came my turn, I twirled, spun, guided my hands up and down my 110-pound frame in a Vanya White type motion as if to say, look at this amazing work of art created in Home Ec 101. All of my speech and debate friends, having heard about my creation, packed the gym for this incredible moment so they could cheer me on. The crowd went wild. The teacher was confused but the results were amazing because all audience members had to buy a 50-cent ticket because we were raising money for new kitchen equipment in the Home Ec room. We met and then went beyond our goal because so many people came to see my ridiculous appearance. The real kicker was that I got a trophy that year for The Crisco Homemaker of the Year Award. Probably the only reason that happened was that I was elected President of the Homemakers' of America club at the school. I could not sew. I could not cook. Being Little Suzie Homemaker was not on my agenda. But I could give awesome speeches and lead a group. My parents had great senses of humor and proudly displayed my trophy in our home as a joke which I was totally on board with at the time. I thank my parents that early on they taught me that it is absolutely healthy and fun to be able to laugh at one's self. They were laughing with me NOT at me which is a big difference.
The gifts of those early, formative years do not escape me. I had good parents who let me be me and my brother be him. We were encouraged to be independent and claim our own gifts and dreams. Even though their financial means were somewhat meager, they did all they could to offer us opportunities and support in all sorts of ways. I only later realized just how much they sacrificed to make that happen. Somehow in the mix of all of that, I came to understand God as the One who created me. God works with me and in me for all the possibilities of my heart and God's heart as well. No matter if my creations are unattractive or misaligned, God is present working in and through me as my Companion God who celebrates who I am and gives me what I need to manage and thrive in this life. And....to be sure.... God absolutely must have a sense of humor. The beautiful thing is that God is with me in all times--the laughter and the tears; the joy and deep sorrow. God is with me in all relationships or in the absence therein.
I celebrate this memory with this blessing from Jan Richardson and I pray it out loud:
May it be
that you know your own soul.
May you be acquainted
with its mysteries and dreams,
in its solitude,
and be wedded
to the wonder
of a life
of your own.
You might have guessed that I did not turn out to be a great housewife. The truth is that I even had a second errant style show appearance. My mom sent me to The Dillard's Charm School in Austin, TX hoping to help me find just a little more gracefulness. That Dillard’s style show culminated with we students modeling some of the department store wares and demonstrating all that we girls had learned about poise, posture, model walking and such. Yep. You guessed it. I tripped on the runway and fell. Not intentional. No injuries really--not even to my pride because by then I knew without a doubt that my parents and God would still love me even when I fell and was not graceful. By then, I was already wedded to the unconditional love of God and the wonder of life. No stumble could deter me for long because my safety-net parents and loving God