I love Kris Kristofferson. There is a presence about him that is so special. It reminds me of Christmas. There is something that radiates from him that I am certain is a presence that can’t be explained. I feel in his voice, and hear in his songs, and each time I see him I wonder what it is that he understands that the rest of the world (including myself) does not. I also get this feeling on Christmas. I know you feel it too, that unique joy that takes you over. You may not feel it the entire day, but it’s always at some point, at least once, or at least for me it is. Today it has happened more than once. Maybe it’s Miss America, maybe it’s chocolate cake, maybe it’s watching ‘The Blind Side’, maybe it’s my aunts trying on my old dresses and talking about how excited they are about Las Vegas, or maybe it’s just that I finally have that presence that I see in Kris Kristofferson. From serving and loving and understanding joy by bringing it into places that have not felt it in a long time, not even on Christmas. Repeatedly throughout the day and night I remember what it is that I have done, the dirty faces that I have pressed against my own, the towns I have sped through, the adults whom I have somehow renewed a sense of hope in about our generation. And, at this point, you know I don’t sleep anymore…EVER, so at 4 am all I can do is think about it. Will I continue to feel it all the time from now on, not just at Christmas? I am blessed to have been given a feeling of joy, a presence of faith, and a desire to do good, so the question I ask tonight is how in the world could I not? How could my dream ever become a burden? Once you achieve something so great I think it’s easy to turn it into a victory march. It’s easy to see all the good that you do as a stream of justification of just how worthy you are to be in your own shoes, this is where you will lose that joy. I forget it when the mountains become a blur. I forget it when I give a high five to a child as I’m running out of a school instead of holding their little hands and listening to their fifteen minute story that will make me late for my next school. I forget it when I put on a swimsuit and still don’t look quite like I should not be walking a runway in lifesize angel wings, but everyone forgets. I am blessed that it is now rare that I forget because I am reminded of it every day, and because it is my job to remind others. I knew from a very young age that I had an ability to make people feel valued. Despite what society had made them feel about themselves or their worth I could somehow leave them feeling a little bit better about their situation. Whether it was an elderly person in a nursing home who felt that they had nothing left to offer this world, or a child in the mountains who was afraid to smile, somehow I could leave them feeling a little bit better about their situation, and this is why I think I have finally found ‘IT’. This is where my new Christmas(Kris Kristofferson) feeling stems from if I had to guess, and there is nothing that I have ever wanted more. Kris Kristofferson said in an interview a week ago that a long time ago he fell in love with humanity. That he felt a joy every second of every day because he had the opportunity to do something that serves it…Kris, I feel you. And to anyone who reads this, no matter your situation, your hardships, your temporary problems or even the burden of sharing your blessings, remember to find your joy, to be happy, that maybe you don’t have complete control over the cards you’re dealt, but you certainly do have control over how you decide to play them, or how you feel when the game is over...whether you win or lose. Give this year and you will find this joy, not just on Christmas, but every day.
The two weeks leading to this hour in the middle of the night were not completely blissful. In fact I think I almost died...but they brought me to this point, in my home, on my couch, surrounded by my brothers and sisters Christmas presents, at 5am typing softly so that my mom and dad won’t find me in blissful insomnia yet again…trying to explain this feeling that I have…synopsis…in my opinion, the best series of events thus far...
Thursday night, December 10th I found that my quality of life was not so great as my “Quality of Life” application was due in a matter of hours….and I had to drive 3 hours to Knott county for nine schools, a Christmas parade, light festival, camel ride, civil war reenactment, etc…THAT NIGHT. As the clock struck midnight I was far from Cinderella and closer to Gus Gus the mouse as I tripped down the steps with a pile of clothes and curling irons in my arms in the middle of the night. I began drive at midnight, knowing that I would arrive at 3am and this would give me plenty of time to prepare for my 6am start. This is my life. My mom loves me so much that she tries to make a better situation for my safety by talking to me on the phone the entire night...since driving with one hand vs two over mountain ranges is in fact safe. People usually say that they suffer from insomnia, for the past three months(and especially on nights like this one) I think that I am in fact blessed with it. I arrive. My clothes are still in a pile, hangers hanging off them, curling iron cords scraping across the driveway and I creep into Marada(the kindest woman in Hindman)'s beautiful home. My toothbrush is in my purse, my makeup is wrapped in my nightgown slung over my shoulder, I am a cross between santa clause, homeless, and maybe a very small glimpse of a Miss America …So, 4ish by now, of course I’m not sleeping, 6 arrives in a matter of hours and I am ready to go. SAINT Susan Amburgey greets me a few hours later in all her glory…a bit worried about mine…however, she knows that I can find it by the time we get to the first school, the first of about 9. I regained my will to live at Carr Creek Elementary School. We whip into the parking lot and I look over...the sign out front, where most schools have announcements about parent teacher conferences, swine flu vaccinations, or Christmas break, says, “Welcome Mallory, The Next Miss America” I was now fighting exhaustion, hunger, car sickness, and tears…and I knew at that point that I would be fighting them for the rest of the Knott County day. Especially when I saw those signs the children had made…you know how I’ve described before how it feels to win, how it's a certain feeling that is like no other, one I can't describe and one that I thought I would probably never feel it again…well at Carr Creek Elementary School, for one second, I felt it again. I made it through, singing extra songs, asking extra questions. Then Susan drug me into the office to make an announcement …my announcements are risky...I get way too close, talk way too ‘football game’, but they rule…"Carr Creek Indians!!!…I heard someone say that you had were trying to win a little contest by having the best attendance in Knott County?!?!!(I look at Susan for the next thing I am supposed to address)…well I hear you guys are the best, so I expect you to win it!!, Oh and I’ve just been informed that you are about to have testing week, so I just want to make sure you TRY YOUR BEST…GGGOOOO IIINNNNDDDIIIAAANNNSS!!! chckluchulkdfudch I hang the microphone up in the wrong place…I hear a scream…I’ve gotten through to someone.
Over the meadows (where we stopped so that I could take a picture with an elk), and through the woods, to school after school we go. There was a little boy who chased me out and almost barreled the door down , “I HAVE A DREAM I HAVE A DREAM , MISS KENTTUUCCCKKKYYY!!” What would he do if I didn’t hear him, if I didn’t turn around, if I ignored his desperate cry? I always wonder that right before I whip around and wrap my arms around them to hear their little dreams. "I want to be a football player", he had even drawn a picture of his dream. He gave it to me.
Another School…Another School…LUNCH(yeah right)…Another School, Another School…
The High School, where I am ‘welcomed’ by a few attitudes, slouched back in theatre chairs, ready to eat me alive…these are my favorite scenarios though, because they always end the best. I spoke, we became friends, then I took song requests, ‘Cowboy Casanova’ and ‘I Told You So’, etc. Great Group…Very great…Very Respectful…very sure they will go far. There is so much more to tell about the other thousand schools, but it is now turning daylight, and I must at least get in my bed before my dad gets up and begins his daily Bejing 2008 work out routine and tries to make me participate…
So we’re at the last school, and Susan and an English teacher are hacking away at my paperwork in a classroom next to the auditorium. They fixed my grammar, my runnons, and my anxiety for one second, until I decided to listen to my voicemail…"Hey Mallory, I hope that you guys make it to the Whitesburg Christmas Parade by 5, I just saw it in the newspaper that you were the grand marshal."…"WHAT?!?...IT SAID 6 ON MY SCHEDULE, IT IS 4:30 AND A 40 MINUTE DRIVE!" I dramatically drop my purse and run to the English room, “Susan, it’s at 5 it’s at 5!!!”…and whether she meant it or not she said, ok. It is 12 degrees outside. I had silk pants and a blazer to my name. No time to change into warm clothes, get a coat, gloves…anything. Dale Earnhart Jr.(Susan Amburgey).. herded me into her racecar and instructed me to fasten my seat belt. Oh Oh No. Well we made it, and I was probably as white as a ghost when we arrived to Whitesburg, but ghostly or not, I got there...now I had to get to the top of a convertible somewhere. Susan is driving against the parade traffic holding my crown out the window and she tells me to get out and RUN. I have to find my car, she has to find a computer to print my application. I climb atop a yellow Corvette and confiscate the driver’s red gloves. I watch from a distance as Susan transforms from Dale Earnhart to Hussein Bolt before my eyes as she is now running down the street screaming, “Does anyone have a computer I can use?!? It’s for Miss Kentucky!!! We need to print a paper!!” Luckily she hears a cry from God from the front porch of the funeral home. She disappeared into the front door. I was still there, sitting atop that cold yellow ice cube convertible and went back and forth from santa clause to the grinch to some form of crazy aloof queen that you all have seen in parades where you know she is not really waving at you and is throwing candy to compensate…I am never that queen, but I was so cold I couldn’t feel ANYTHING at all, and my vision was becoming blurred, so I felt like I was for a second or two. Of course the convertible is stick shift, so it was all I could do to hold on for my dear little life(that I want to badly to last until at lease after Miss America) each time it launched forward and my silk pants slid slid all over the top of it. Despite all of this, I waved up a sandstorm…and speaking of sandstorms, at the next portion of the Christmas Parade(The Festival of Lights) I found that I was, in fact, provided a CAMEL to ride. Enough said, look at the picture. Normally in my life, if someone directed me to a camel to ride I would have asked questions like, “OH my gosh how is there a camel in Whitesburg?!”, or “Oh does it hurt it for me to ride it?!”, or “Will it run or buck?!” or anything but what I said this time…"…ok, do I sit on the hump or between the humps…?” I was so cold I was not even phased by the camel ride. I was shaking like I had been electrocuted, spelling my name wrong signing autographs, not in complete control of my arms nor the flaming marshmallows squashed on the end of the sticks as they waved dangerously close to my Whitesburg friends…who I do really love more than almost any city of people I’ve come across. At this point I needed to get to a car. So as we were walking out I hear “Hey Little Lady, Ya Ever Shot A Canon Before?” I turned around with my mouth kind of opened, my face kind of scrunched and red, I could hardly speak because my face was so numb, "No Sir, but when I was on my camel I heard you shoot one…” I knew it was coming…”Well come on over here(somehow this invitation to me also served as an announcement to the crowd to watch me partake in this danger) and shoot it!" I was scared, obviously, but far too cold to care. Even if I had actually been hit with the cannon ball I don’t think I would have felt it…Abraham Lincoln and Robert E Lee handled the safety procedures…this time only addressing the crowd. “Ok everyone, now this is dangerous, step 50 feet away, cover your ears, hide your children, confess your sins!!”” Kidding. Kind of. So everyone is moving further and further into the distance and I am standing there with no other instruction but to hold this string, wrap it across my leg, and pull like ‘the dickens’ when they said so. In this moment, holding that string, one foot away from this deadly weapon I could have felt unsafe…but I was fairly ok with the situation. I kind of felt like I was about to help end the war or something. And the pride and warmth that was radiating from my civil war impersonating friends was surprisingly making me feel ok. If I died in battle I knew it was not in vain. “Here we go!!!” I begin to scream bloody murder as I am now back to scared to death and pulling the cord at the same time…”AAAHHAHHHHHHHHHHH” “RRRRRRUUUUAAAAAAHHHHHHH” I wasn’t strong enough. I think it was George Washington who latched onto me for assistance, we pulled the cord, the cannon fired. I kept screaming bloody murder, even after, maybe from excitement, maybe from frost bite, maybe from the small gash and large bruise and welp I knew was quickly developing on my right thigh, but I finally stopped. They were trying to tell me something important that I had accomplished during this feat that had guaranteed me good luck…Robert E Lee opens his glove to reveal a twisted L-shaped piece of metal…”Ya See this pick?”…”Yes Sir.”…”Nobody ever shoots a cannon off and don’t break this pick, they say if someone actually does it’s good luck that surpasses all kinds of luck…and somehow little lady, you’ve done it.” “AAAHHHHHHH!!” I scream with glee again! He might as well have just set that little pick on my head because I felt like I had just won Miss America in that moment. Just as I am about to say thank you and to give a brief frost bitten spill on how the civil war paved the way for the things I’m now free and able to do etc, I am interrupted by a cry that surpassed all cold, application deadlines, and silk pants with burnt marshmallows stuck to the side of them , “AT MISS AMERICA THIS YEAR, THE SOUTH IS GONNA RISE AGAIN!!!!” There was screaming and cheering, laughing and muffled glove clapping, marshmallows and hotdogs whipping about with excitement, because in that moment, whether it was/is or not, we all knew it was true. I looked at Susan , she looked at me, and we knew that if anyone could make it though a day like that, they were ready to be Miss America. We made our way to the car, laughing, holding onto each other, running into each other, being halfway carried by my poor parade driver who could not get rid of me but felt responsible for making sure I made it to the car considering I was fairly certain that I had lost a toe at that point (either that or he wanted me gone because his girlfriend kept calling him and I believe was on her way there). We got to the car and couldn’t even speak to each other. We had both lost an earring, I had also lost an eyelash, and a few years off our lives…but that day was well worth a year or two. Knott County and Letcher County, I am in love with you. Thank you for loving me too.
Stayed up all night again, left at 7 then drove home to throw the annual Miss Kentucky Christmas party for the board. I was informed that the mulled cider that I was so proud of was actually called mulling cider, and that you are not supposed to leave the spices and sticks in it…you are supposed to strain them out…but I was far too strained to read the directions.
Next day. Did schools in Harrodsburg, one in a house, then raced back to Lexington then Cincinnati to catch a flight to New York City. My mom, sister, and I were on a mission to complete my wardrobe for Miss America, and we so surpassed anything that we ever could have dreamed…YOU JUST WAIT!! We made it out of the city that never sleeps, that I feel I get along with quite well given this fact, and I don’t even want to wear the dresses and shoes we got because they are so magical. It all came together in those little personal shopping rooms where they lined up things for me to try and fed me pink and green macaroons. We wrapped up our preparations as every single item I needed was unzipped, ready for me to try on, and PERFECT! We stayed at the New York Palace(where Gossip Girl is filmed) and the staff would greet us(all three of us) as Miss America each time we busted through the revolving doors, tripping over the other one because for some reason we all three would try to squeeze in the same section…And I can’t wait for you to see what we found!!! AHHHHHH! Last scream. Sorry.
I rushed back from New York to Lexington then had one day to get ten thousand things done, visit my friends at Total Med Spa in Louisville, and prepare for Christmas Eve! I decided, on a whim, while at Marcia’s house sitting on the couch with Kaitlynne Dorothy that I would get my little brother a puppy for Christmas. The last thing I needed to do given my situation. We found a breeder in Georgetown on her iphone and 15 hours later we found ourselves in a stable trying to choose between two tiny little batdog baby pugs. Kaitlynne carried our selection, ‘Raisin’ out the stable doors and she became my best little purchase ever. I loved her. Then that night I kind of lost a bit of the love I had for her as she wouldn't stop running in circles and licking my face. Thank you to Christian for taking her in the middle of the night so that she would live through the night. The next day I picked her up and we began our journey home, I fed her chocolate Dunkin’ Donut munchkins(not really knowing the whole dog and chocolate thing), but she loved them and is alive and well. And Gabie LOVES her! We all do. Her name is now 'Pearl' and I love to hold her in pictures because she makes me look thinner.
Christmas Eve I sang in a wedding for my friend Brandon and his sweet new wife Elizabeth, then the most magical Christmas Eve Mass ever, then the wild Ervin Christmas(I am the oldest of 23 cousins on one side remember). My family is the reason I have found this joy, the reason I keep finding it, and the reason that it is so worth it to share it, because they constantly are an example of it. The next day was my mom’s side, and so wonderful as well. Christmas was magical this year, it was different, kind of like it was when we were little. There was a joy, an excitement, a wonder, a wholeness, and a special hope that was there. Maybe it’s Miss America, or maybe it’s just all that joy that I’ve come to feel from all the love I now know. Or maybe it comes from finally realizing that beauty can’t change the world, or who you are, but that making a person feel beautiful about themselves certainly can. Christmas was real. The world was more beautiful. And I am ready.
P.S. I apologize for my blog delay, or lapse at this point, but instead of going on and on about making excuses, I will simply make it up to you by sharing this wildly embarrassing video of me singing at Coal Days at age 6. They say the best gifts to give are the ones that you want to keep for yourself, well you will see why I wanted to forever keep this to myself...So I obviously thought that I was Reba McEntire, and that I was a little bit famous, now I see why my family sat in the back row and the camera shakes while they’re filming, because they’re laughing. If anyone ever thought that I was not born this way, that I am not a true performer at heart and completely in love with the stage, think again. I promise this video will make it worth your wait.
P.S.S. That’s my mom leaning against the front of the stage in the video…hahahahahaha…not really, but that’s what I would like for everyone to think, so please feel free to spread that rumor. She gets so mad.