The Restorers of My Identity
For my very first guest post as a blogger, I wrote about my junior high days and the Thief of My Identity. Every word about the thief is true. Some of the thief’s mischief was normal to those growing up stages. Other mischief was damaging for the long term. But lest it appear that my youth was a miserable one, I wanted to follow up with the story of why all was not lost and why most of my memories from those years are good ones. There is both bad and good in every life story. To tell just one side without telling the other is at its best unbalanced and at its worst untrue.
I didn’t always feel like I fit into the social scene at school. I did, however, find my place. It was in the band room. Yes, my friends, I was a true band nerd and I’m proud of it! The magician of my junior high days was the wonderful Mr. Harold Windolf, our band director. In my young eyes, he was an old, crusty, sarcastic, delightful man. He was, in fact not that old at all. If my Google search and my math are correct, he would have been in his mid to late 50’s when he taught me. I would have flown to the moon and back for him. He didn’t ask me to do that, but he did ask me to play piano in the jazz band. I am no pianist, let me assure you, but he wasn’t asking for a Mozart. All he wanted was someone who would do her best to rock along with the likes of Muskrat Love. As long as I could tag team with Angela and Julie, all was well. I loved the competitiveness of band – of trying my best to win a seat beside my best friend, who also happened to rule first chair for flute. Once in a blue moon (a very, very blue moon) I got to see what first chair felt like for myself.
Once we got to high school, after suffering through one year with a less-than-ideal band director, we were given the best: Richard Baskin. He seemed so young to us. Actually, I think he really was quite young. A rebel and a hot-tempered thrower of various objects – we thought he was the best thing that ever hit T.L. Hanna High School. We worked hard for him because, as much as we loved tormenting him, we really did want to please him. It was under Baskin that the football halftime show changed from the time when everyone left the stands for a bathroom break and snacks to the time when our friends stuck around to see what new things we added to the show. Fun times, I must say.
So if the band room was my home base for school, my church was the home base for the rest of my life. I grew up in what I am sure is the best Baptist church ever – Boulevard Baptist in Anderson. When I was in the 8th grade, they called a new Minister of Music, Steven Ponder. Thanks to his love of young people, his dedication to teaching music, and his unbelievable patience, Mr. Ponder (Ponge) was able to mold us into a choir that was more of a family than extracurricular activity. (Okay, so it didn’t always seem like he always felt patient with us – we could be little hellions – but not once, ever, did he give up on us.) Because of my church and the youth choir – Celebration Singers – I felt centered, regardless of some of the other things that happened. My best friends were from church. My social calendar was built around church. My summers were scheduled around choir tour, Garden City, and other youth activities. I spent hours at the church for handbells, puppet practice, and Agape (small ensemble) rehearsals. I couldn’t have asked for more. Or for better.
So as I follow up on all the things that can steal a young girl’s identity, I want to celebrate the things that can build her back up: a safe place to try new things, an area of growing skill, mentors who are passionate and patient, friends with shared interests and activities, and perhaps most important of all, a place where faith is taught and nurtured. Combine these things, as I was able to, with a stable home where you always feel loved and secure, and even the hardest hits by the thief of identity can be overcome. Just ask me. I know.