The request: Would I be willing to be on my sister's Relay for Life team and represent the team in the fundraising pageant. The instructions: Sing a song dressed like the singer. Our first thought was something from "The Sound of Music." That sounded easy and fun. But something stirred in my memory, and the next thing I knew, I was destined to be a singing cat!
You see, years ago -- maybe 20? -- I had another sister make me a furry cat costume for a Halloween party. I knew that costume -- including hood, shoe covers and mittens -- was still in my closet, although I had not worn it since then. I also knew I'd once sung "Memory" from "Cats the Musical" at a church talent show, wearing a much simpler version of a cat costume.
Something about Relay for Life -- typically a 12-hour walk to raise money for a cure for cancer, to remember those who have died and and to provide hope and support for survivors, which takes place in communities around the nation -- makes wearing a full-body, furry cat costume on a hot June evening in Perry, Oklahoma, seem like just the right thing to do. And did I mention that, since I'd be performing as a cat, I'd be speaking in meow, hiss and purr? And did I mention that I am a grown woman?
I did not find favor from my private audience of cat at home as I practiced my pageant performance. Bridget just did not understand or appreciate. Oh, but she did inspire me! Even though I had no idea how an audience of people would respond, I could hardly wait to find out.
Curtain time for the pageant was 9 p.m., and I started putting on my costume about 8:50. I had not done a dress rehearsal, but it went amazingly smoothly. And then it was time to take the stage. The emcee asked contestants to introduce themselves. The first was a group of performers doing a medley from "Grease." The next contestant? "Meow." And who are you representing? "Meow, meow." Somehow, this smart emcee knew that meant I was representing Orange Crush.
All of the other contestants introduced themselves (during which time the cat took a little nap), and then it was time for my question. The emcee coaxed me out of my slumber then asked a question. I think it was what's my favorite kind of ice cream? That was easy. "Meow meow!" She seemed pleased with the answer.
Soon, we all paraded off the stage, to be called back when it was our turn. I was supposed to be about fourth, but because it was a hot night for a cat, they let me go second. I immediately laid down on stage, but when the music started, I perked up. I just can't resist singing along to the music of "Memory," and so I did. I didn't really know or care what those people thought. This cat was just having fun. Too soon, the music ended, and I had to step off stage.
But as I walked down the steps, the most heartwarming thing happened: A young girl came up, half boldly and half timidly, and asked if she could have her picture made with the kitty! And thus began about 30 minutes mingling with young and old, being appreciated just for being a cat! I only saw two young children who were overly traumatized by this big furry thing, and I tried to ease away slowly.
With the help of relay team members, including my sister, we were able to collect almost enough donations to win the title! But Grizabella the Glamour Cat wannabe singing "Memory" from "Cats the Musical" won a prize that couldn't be topped: The response of those children to a silly old woman willing to dress up in a cat costume and meow musically to her heart's content, and then to be petted and photographed with. Let the "Memory" live again and again!