I rode my bicycle from our house to Grandma’s house and back again, over and over. Mutually oblivious to the lives passed along the way as mundane daily activities consumed our thoughts and actions.
The shadow of the tassels dangling from the handlebars was almost identical in shape to the ponytails of the dark image racing beside me.
Traffic was not a problem in my small Kansas hometown. A smile creeps onto my face now as I think of having ever referred to the movement as traffic. There I was, red-headed and freckle-faced, with my two ponytails hanging straight down from either side of my head. Riding my banana seat bicycle down the street with a purpose only of importance to the youthful me. The shadow of the tassels dangling from the handlebars was almost identical in shape to the ponytails of the dark image racing beside me. My phantom twin was distorted by the angle of the sun, bending and waving over the curb of the street and sliding along the changing landscape from yard to yard.
Neither flesh and blood nor the wispy dark silhouette beside me was at all extraordinary. An average kid doing what average kids do. My freckles were never bold enough to be adored by those who gazed in my direction. My hair never red enough to capture attention like the flickering flames of a fire. Some might say my hair was reddish-brown or strawberry blonde or auburn. I preferred to label the hue in simple man color terms.
I didn’t care.
The color of my hair wasn’t the essence of me, it was just hair. The freckles resting in silence on my face observed the day to day activities of a little girl living in mediocrity.
Throughout my teenage years, I found a certain predictable contentment in obedience. My identity is synonymous with a lifetime of heeding my elders, abiding by the rules, and residing within societal boundaries.
Recognition of personal accomplishments verges on painful for me. I recoil from praise, a spontaneous withdrawal into my shadowy shell. I’ve always found the spotlight to be uncomfortably blinding. An innate reflex within me raises my hand to shield myself from view, returning to the safety of a self-created darkness.
Attention carries with it a roller coaster ride of glory, ridicule, love, and hate. Like Kansas weather, the seasons can converge and shift beyond control.
The attention of others was once merely a verbal grapevine, notes passed in class or talk in the break room. Social media expands the platform, creating a storm for attention.
Such turmoil is not for me. I gladly remain invisible to those who shine brighter.
The bravery of a freckle-faced adventurer is still hidden within my pores and the fiery confidence of a redhead is buried somewhere under my average exterior. Being the life of the party is not necessary for me to appreciate my own self-worth.
Average people raise families, build communities, and grow companies. Together we are the proud backbone of success.
I am in good company here in the shadow next to the spotlight.
The passing of time has become visible in the natural highlights streaking through my red hair and gradually fading it into gray. Or is it silver or platinum.
I’m not sure what the man color term would be.
Freckles are transforming into age spots on my wrinkling skin. My hands are becoming the hands of my Mother and my Grandmother before her. No matter. The labelling of my external trimmings remains as unimportant to me today as it did fifty years ago.
Embarking on a familiar walk through my neighborhood, traffic fills the city streets and creates a barrier of sound for my meditative thoughts. My gait, well inside the lines of the crosswalk, quickens to safely reach the other side within the parameters of the blinking countdown.
The cloudless day reveals a dark image gliding along the pavement with me. The colorless hair of this nameless creature is thick and full, lifting gracefully in the wind and floating with a youthful beauty.
I smile knowing the shadowy girl is basking in the light of her own personal triumphs. My shadow hair is good today.
Living life in the shadows isn’t all bad.