The Transporter. Tell us about a sensation – a taste, a smell, a piece of music – that transports you back to childhood.
There are many sensations that should transport me back to my childhood – the smell of play dough, the theme music for Sesame Street, the texture of corduroy pants (specifically, brown corduroy pants). My brain recognizes that all these sensations are nostalgic and should have me instantly reliving my carefree, youthful days.
But they don’t.
I was going to lie, and tell you that whenever I open a new tub of play dough, I find myself back at the tender age of eight. That wonderful innocent age before the darkness and shame of puberty appears on the horizon (I went to Catholic school). But I don’t even remember the last time I opened a new tub of play dough. Perhaps I was eight years old the last time I used play dough.
I don’t think I have any sensations that transport me back to childhood. Who wants to go back to childhood anyway? I’m not saying mine was miserable by any means, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant. I was younger than my classmates (and smarter than most of them, too). I didn’t get along with other children; I preferred the quiet company of adults or books. I hated not being in control of my life.
The only place I ever felt comfortable was on stage. Theatre was my refuge, even at six years old. At one time I thought it was because the only way I could like myself was to pretend to be someone else. It wasn’t until many years later, at the ripe old age of 15, when I realized it was exactly the opposite. I liked myself on stage because it was my true self. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else when I was onstage.
In daily life, I had to balance so many roles, so many personas. I was a good girl, a polite girl, a funny girl (my sarcastic sense of humour went unappreciated for years), a nerdy girl, and a big sister (i.e. role model). Most of all though, I was a smart-but-not-too-smart girl. Smart girls will know what I mean. You can be smart, but you can never make others feel stupid or they won’t like you, so sometimes you have to pretend to be not as smart as you really are. That’s a very tough and exhausting thing to do because you have to constantly monitor and temper what you say. I’ve been doing that since I was five years old.
But on stage, I could just be myself. I could relax because someone had already written what I was supposed to say. I could be smart because the script said I had to be smart, and no one would make fun of me. I could be vulnerable and not get hurt. I could be powerful and not be hated. I could be me. It was such a sense of relief. A weight lifted off my young shoulders.
So perhaps theatre is my sensation that takes me back to childhood, back to myself. To this day, I love to stand in the wings before a show, spy on the audience between the curtains, and just breathe it all in. Backstage, in the dim glow of a blue work light, I know I am right where I’m supposed to be. It’s probably why I’ve never been able to leave theatre. It is where I have always felt at home.