This is the first thing that one sees upon entering the Royal Panda–a lovely screen featuring a cheerful little bluebird resting on a slender branch abloom with cotton candy flowers.
It’s unabashedly pretty and gentle and sweet. And I love it. Like the fountain that is set directly in front of the door to the foyer, it is refreshingly simple and lovely.
In the calculated world of branding and imaging, it is sheer genius. But the plump little songbird is not a reflection of genius, but integrity, and in my book of life, integrity trumps genius every time.
I’ve got this notion that we’re each created with something uniquely and wonderfully amazing that is specific only unto us. And I really do believe that if we can honor that uniqueness and be that person, then we will bring joy not only to ourselves, but to others.
For a time, the bumper sticker thought du jour was “follow your passion.” But this is not quite what I am saying, because this is more central and core than a passion, and sometimes I think it is harder for people to discern, thanks to the demands of family, friends, teachers, work, and society–all of which seem to be engaged at times in hammering out of us whatever is most uniquely us.
Yo Yo Ma knows he can play that dang cello. He was blessed with talent, and then worked his ever loving fanny off with practice practice practice under stellar teachers. The gal that wears the big ole tiara and the Miss Universe sash ought to know she is real looker. Maybe God gave it to her for free, or maybe she threw some money at it. But she knows.
I am so blessed to not be confused about who I am. I don’t need a sash or an applauding audience.
But it is not of my doing. I can take no credit at all, so that I say this humbly, with nothing but gratitude.
My childhood was the stuff of dreams.
It included incredible parents and awesome teachers–my mom taught me first grade while I attended kindergarten, and my great aunt Margaret snuck me into first grade before I turned six (my “late” birthday) at one of the last three-room school houses of the rural south. I lived out in the country and played daily in the woods where I invented wonderful adventures, always with myself portraying the leading roles of Daniel Boone on some days, and Bird Woman on others.
Indoors I read, and colored, and painted, and as my brother said, “banged on the piano.” Mother taught me to sew, and on my first day of fourth grade I wore a short sleeve cotton blouse printed with tiny cranberry flowers with a cranberry-colored skirt both of which I made myself, which is why I can remember it. By the time I was nine, mother had the courage to turn me loose in the kitchen, where she let me cook entire meals for the family. The endowment of self-worth and empowerment is a grand thing for a child to be given, and I pray that I have spent and will spend the coin of this gift wisely and to the benefit of others.
There seemed to be so much time back then. What a great luxury it was! I industriously pursued every badge in the Girl Scout handbook, and I loved going to school where I had teachers who were not hemmed in by rules and procedures. They taught as they knew best, each bringing to their lessons a unique style suited to the child and that day. Both of my parents spent lots of time playing with me, reading to me, and both made me feel important, not only with the gift of their time, but with their sacrifice. Ours was a frugal household by necessity, and I think would have been so by choice anyway. And I was given chores, mother always said, “We work, and then we play.”
“Town” was a small Alabama college town, where I attended school and “scouts” and church, and took music lessons. In high school, Monsieur Di Orio would walk across the street from the university campus to teach us French–and there were always plays and lectures, which while not Broadway or the Harvard Club, were magical and informing to a curious child charmed by the enthusiastic student productions and visiting authors.
All this is to say, as convincingly as I can, this one absolute truth–I truly am an insanely fortunate person, and like that stalwart, pudgy little bluebird that greets me each day at Mr. Wu’s, I have much to sing about.
Thank you Mother and Daddy.
My song is for you.