While involved in a riveting project some months ago, I was called by a name that I will never forget and possibly have engraved on my tombstone.
Certain people from the production referred to me as “the talent.”
I can’t tell you why these stellar individuals addressed me by this — I hope — appropriate title, because I signed binding legal paperwork. Still, to pique your interest here are some multiple-choice possibilities.
1. competed on a talent show, juggling cats while balancing on a ball and singing an aria from La Traviata
2. played an alien in a New Mexico tourism commercial
3. was Doc Holliday’s lover, Big Nose Kate (so apropos!), in a gunfight at the O.K. Corral reenactment
4. none of the above
While I was “the talent” for two short days, people hurried to drape blankets over my shoulders in the cold and held my ratty hairbrush as if it were the jewel-encrusted one of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Lunch was catered, and an amiable production assistant served me Downton Abbey Rose Tea.
For minutes on end technical people scrutinized my face under various lights, without uttering a word, as if reading a fascinating future mapped in every pore, wrinkle and blemish.
Sadly, I never learned to proceed past a camera lens without stopping dead in my tracks, blinking dumbly. I also never fully mastered walking, speaking or sitting while being filmed, so it’s highly possible I was called “the talent” because people forgot my name. It sounded better than, “Hey, we need that 40-year-old lady with the stringy hair that keeps falling in her face!” Or, given that those involved in the project often work in L.A., it’s more likely they call everyone that to avoid hurt feelings.
Whatever the reason for the honor, my participation came to an end as all good things must, and the next talent arrived. Then I was like one of King Henry VIII’s wives, waiting around in a fancy hotel — my own Tower of London — for my imminent departure in an Uber for the airport. On the scale of unpleasant happenings, I’d say flying on a packed plane and inhaling mutating viruses is very close to having your head chopped off.
I survived the flight, but it was quite a shock to return home to my normal responsibilities. The next morning I had to prepare my own plain tea as I shivered in the chilly morning air, wondering where I left my hairbrush. That night I dreamed a giant hamster — a natural on camera! — was the next talent.
If only I could keep the moniker I possessed for that short weekend! It’s not that I want it to replace my more important titles; it’s just that “Mom,” “writer” and “Hillary” sound so ordinary now. I’d like “the talent” to be added to them.
On a Saturday morning when my kids need help cleaning their bathroom, they could call down the stairs, “Can we get the talent up here? No one scrubs a toilet bowl like she does!”
At dinnertime my husband might shout, “I need the talent to season this taco meat and fetch some tortillas asap!”
Even my Yorkie, if he could only talk, would politely say, “Will Mistress Pooper-Scooper the talent look down before she steps in my poo while admiring our neighbor’s rose bushes?”
Oh, well. No one brings me exotic hot tea or drapes a fuzzy blanket over my shoulders as I sit alone at my computer and tap out stories. And for sure no one will be calling me by that lovely title any longer. But secretly? Oh, yes! I will now be referring to myself as “Hillary the talent.”
Boy, I hope that’s redundant!
— Hillary Ibarra
Hillary Ibarra is the author of The Christmas List, based on the miracle of one childhood Christmas Eve. She’s also a tree hugger who regularly threatens to sell her four children to the zoo, and their little dog, too. Most of her humor pieces can be found at humorwriters.org. Her personal blog about love and life in the sunny Southwest is hillaryibarra.com.