It was a cold dusty stage. My pink satin ballet slippers were snug tightly on my little toes. In front of me, an empty floor with a table and two or three chairs.
Faces that were unfamiliar to me. Eyes that were there to watch me. People who were only there to tell me whether I could or couldn't. Whether or not I was good enough.
I wasn't naturally an extrovert. My inherent choice of movement at a time like this was to run away to a place of comfort. Even at that young age, I could feel the sting of judgment and the threat of rejection. If I didn't go through with it, I would never know and never have to feel that pain.
I was by far the youngest and by far the least experienced. Why was I standing there?
Panic began to take over. I immediately thought--retreat.
But as I turned around, there she was. She told me she loved me, that she should would be proud of me no matter what...
and then with that comforting smile that only she could give, she hugged me and said, "Just smile, do your best and show them who you are."
It was a semi-filled room in a Holiday Inn convention room downtown. The carpet was brightly colored and it smelled like chlorine from the pool down the hall.
A single, very lonely microphone stand stood up at the front. Very few items of décor. Just some metal folding chairs and a table covered with ribbons and awards.
There I was, again facing my fears. A room of random folks that I didn't know. There to listen and judge my written words.
I was no Jane Austen or William Shakespeare. Of course not. I knew that. Why was I there? The others should win. They were better, more refined...more experienced.
Standing up to the microphone, I felt that same familiar panic--wanting to retreat and head for the hills.
But to my relief, I looked up into the audience and was greeted by that same comforting smile.
That one that only she could give.
I could hear her words. Telling me to remember how talented I was and that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of me, only what I think of myself. Her sweet words saying that I could do anything I wanted to do--pushing me to be the best I could be.
To overcome my fears.
As beautiful as the scenery was, I found myself struggling with the distance. I felt weak and alone.
I walked from my dorm to the eatery only to be haunted by an old friend...
I looked around, wishing that somehow...magically...her smiling face would appear and tell me that everything was going to be alright.
Before going inside, I picked up my cell phone and dialed her number. Her voice answered with a cheerful and excited hello.
It was like she knew exactly what I needed. I didn't even have to say much. She started telling me some stories about her week. We laughed at some comical moments, and then at the end of the conversation she made sure to remind me...
"Keen," she said (oh yeah...my nickname is keen for those of you that don't know) "you're doing great. Don't worry or give up. You'll make friends and I just know you'll love your time out there. Just smile and be yourself."
I smiled, told her I loved her, and went into the eatery.
Maybe it's the fact that in about 7 1/2 weeks I will be a first time mommy to a little girl...or maybe it's just the overall pregnancy hormones...or perhaps it's that I have been feeling so grateful for the support and love of family over the past few months...
...whatever it is, this Mother's Day has meant so much to me.
I think about the never-ending support my mother has shown me my whole life...my whole 25 years of existence. Never once has she ever made me feel like I couldn't do something. To this day, I'm pretty sure she has more faith in me than I have in myself.
Through my highs and my lows, she has been there. Through the tears and the laughs, she has stood by my side.
She is the best lunch & shopping date, a hilarious BYU women's conference buddy, and most-of-all, she is one of my very best friends.
From running half marathons, to up-and-moving myself to San Francisco....
She has been there for me. 110%.
Waiting for me...to congratulate me in moments of victory and pick-me-up in times of trial and panic.
Always with that sweet, loving smile. The one that only she can give.
Love you shell-bell.