She's breaking my heart on a regular basis these days; the clock is moving so fast I can watch the evolution just by sitting still and paying attention. This is from tech week, it may have been the last rehearsal before full dress on the marley floor which is why they moved the venue to the high school. Some of you will pick her out by her feet, arms, and the back of her head because you've seen enough. She's in the back, second in from the right and her unruly hair has escaped at the base of her neck. I have another from production which absolutely horrified her because it was up so close. I know how to take care of that unruly hair but it's been a lot of years since I was permitted to have anything to do with hair and makeup. She will either figure it out on her own, let go enough to ask me to show her, or live with it until someone who matters notices and tells her to work it out. It is the first place I can really remember where she took complete and utter control from me. It just happened one year. I stood behind her in the bathroom before a performance and watched as she carefully did what I'd done for her for years, one step at a time. I stood there and cried quietly. Now I look at her near perfect feet in the shadows and wish she'd let me post this where Cynthia could see it.
I don't generally post other dancers but this is a public photograph and one of the things I really like about this school is that they do partner and they start actively teaching students once they're in the company. This year the Prince is one of the staff members which I think is really wonderful. With the exception of the ballet mistress, all other teachers are active members of dance companies which means they are immersed in it thoroughly. Delaney was a graduating senior this year. I love watching her, more so than the protege who went off to a performing arts school last year and was technically very, very good but lacked Delaney's fluidity.
My child is light and moves as if her body is nearly weightless. She does not care for this photograph because she has forgotten to smile but there is nothing forced about her and I prefer to see her that way, in her natural state. I love that I can see her back in the mirror to the left. She is bothered that the skirt has moved in such a way that it looks like her leg has come up too far in Passé and I tell her that if it actually had she might have tipped over. Her foot, for the record since she's mentioned it so many times, is just at her knee where it belongs. Her turns are lovely.
Now how many of us actually noticed any of that? I didn't think so.
But this is her first year in the company and her first part with any weight and she is proud and critical and terrified all at the same time. I am quite sure if she'd been dating the boy with the pink hair still, she would not have allowed him to attend. Her friends were banished. One mother, one father, two siblings who have (with one or two notable exceptions) attended every recital or performance since she was four, the set of local grandparents who have done the same and, wait for it, Cletus's guy. We seem to have effortlessly absorbed him into the family and she didn't even blink when I gave her the list. Twice. I really wonder who she thought I was going to try to sneak in. I have a feeling that someday her grandparents from the north are going to make it to one of her performances and she's going to stop breathing, but inside, once she's stopped being so frightened, she will be pleased.
(S., you can come anytime you feel like it. We'll just give her enough notice to simmer down or maybe just shock the hell out of her after the fact)
I love this. She might even be smiling. She is one of two midnight fairies; the other was a graduating senior just off her left shoulder. She does not love this. 'It looks like I'm about to smack her.' Does she mean Delaney or the fairy godmother in blue? I decide not to ask.
This is the hair shot. How did a beautiful duet with the other midnight fairy (and since when did Cinderella have fairies? I think maybe they escaped from Sleeping Beauty or it's only that Disney left them out?) turn out to be about the hair? I am mostly noticing the price she's paying for dancing in day old shoes which most assuredly beat the alternative of dancing in a very broken pair of Russian Pointes which are great shoes and perfect for her feet right until the box AND the shank go. Elizabeth is mostly ambidextrous. She writes with her left hand but uses scissors with her right (that scared the shit out of me when she was five - DON'T CUT YOUR FINGERS OFF) I think she turns more easily from the right but either way, you can see which is the dominant foot from the bottom of her shoes. She went through a brand new pair of shoes in the last two weeks of rehearsal which makes sense if you're in there from seventeen to twenty hours a week and EVERYTHING is on pointe. This was a first, trashed shoes in two weeks but I guess close to forty hard hours might do it.
You can't tell from the photograph that they are broken, only battered. When the box goes, which is that several square centimeters flat area where All. Of. Your. Weight. Goes., you can tell in one of two ways. You can either start pushing at the sides to see if there is too much give or you can take a pin and pass it through the box itself. If a pin can pass through the box it's all over. One day she danced for an hour with paper towels shoved into the toes because she'd forgotten her toe pads and it takes me an hour to get there and back. I consider passing a long length of yarn through her toe pads which will then run up under her leotard and back down to the other foot like mittens on little kids with the yarn run through the sleeves. This is not viable but it's where I go when I want to remember everything for her so that she'll suffer no pain. Wrong answer, Mom.
The five weeks of Ailey begin tomorrow. We are all panicking because unlike FAB where there were very few moving parts (come to this address wearing these things and dance from 10 - 4. Then go away please and come back tomorrow), Ailey has an alarming number of moving parts, events, and requirements, some of which we barely got in under the wire because we'd missed the fact that she needed a physical and a doctor's sign off that she could participate in THIS particular rigorous training. Her doctor looked at me funny, I said, please, don't even get me started. On the other hand, physical therapy is built into the schedule on almost a daily basis. Well alrighty then.
I did the math on the acceptance rate for this class just because I wanted to know. We all know it's a bloody miracle she got in and she got in based on solid ballet skills, teachability (that's a word now?), and the clear deportment of 'dance or die'. I got it wrong the first time and came up with 13% which sort of made sense. However, I miscounted the number of auditions in other cities, including Toronto were held before and after the NYC audition. All of these were in big cities with most likely the same number of applicants. What I was missing were the cities which came before New York so now I've got them all, the acceptance rate is closer to 8%. I pointed that out and she got a funny look on her face. 13% she could swallow and feel truly good about herself; 8% was a bit harder to choke down. She did not smile. I said, 'SAB's acceptance rate is 6%, Stanford University was 5% last I checked. Any reason you shouldn't be dancing within the top 10% of your age group?' I didn't say 6 and I didn't say 5 because there is a world of difference once you get to those numbers. I use Stanford as an example because we've had the conversation about why it's so hard to get in and what Stanford looks for beyond a perfect plus GPA and exceptional record of community service. I used it specifically as a metaphor for what she has that many dancers do not. Then I told her I wasn't paying for Stanford and hoped like hell she wouldn't find out about the Cardinal Ballet.
She's going to have two very long first days. She will take a 6:40 train to guarantee her 8:15 arrival and she'll be there until 6. She is supposed to be there until 6 on Tuesday as well but she's going to have to tell them she has to leave at 3:50 because she's got a 6:30 orientation in Norwalk for a Builders Beyond Borders (B3) trip she'll be taking over April break to Nicaragua. I don't know what they're building this time; the primary site doesn't have the 2017 events listed yet but the only way she can go, they only way any of them can go is to raise the money themselves. This is as much about fundraising as it is about being in service. I suppose parents could fill up the kickstarter site themselves if it ran short and could buy up all the raffle tickets but one of the reasons this appeals to her is that she does have to do it herself. She doesn't really understand how she'll be living or what exactly she'll be doing (my lovely daughter with her lily white oh so soft hands) but she said, 'last year, my friend Sarah came home and something was different, she changed. I want what she had. I want to do that.'
What do you mean I can't have my cell phone? How the hell am I going to take pictures? Do real cameras still exist? You know, the small ones?
It's not about the pictures (right up until it is).
I think there is an actual performance at the end of the five weeks (that would be Ailey, not Nicaragua). It's the only way I'm going to get any damn pictures (yeah, here it is, all about the pictures). I am grateful to be working within a department with a company that doesn't seem to have any trouble with personal days or half days if you don't leave anything on fire. This is the first time in more years than I can think of where I have no fear of being told I can't head into the city because my daughter has a performance.
I just have to remember as I don't bill, I am not actually losing money; I'm taking from the funds saved to pay myself for that personal day. That's hard for me. When I work by the hour, the idea of losing eight or ten hours is painful. The idea of losing forty hours makes me lightheaded. I'll be doing that in August when Elizabeth and I head for the beach. I pay Cletus the equivalent of one hour less taxes to spend the day waiting for the oil guy to show up and tell me (her) AGAIN that I need a new furnace, to wait for the Sears people to show up with the new dryer and argue with them that yes, they do have to take the dead thing away, and to wait for the Sears people to show up with the dishwasher (everything died at once) and force them to install and hook it up properly. She is delighted with the transfers into her account (still looking for a job) and I'm actually going to pay her to dog sit while I'm in Cincinnati. This is a sea change in how I see time and money. I am a machine and if I could get away with billing fifty or sixty hours a week; I'd find a way to add fifty or sixty hours a week of value, but they get cranky when I go over budget so I try not to and when it can't be helped I start shaving off the sides and in the middle because if I actually worked for them they'd be getting the best of me anyway.
Well that was slightly off topic...
This is even more so. I have intentionally decided that my last relationship needs to be given no air time, or minimal air time. When my heart lurches, especially when I'm trying to fall asleep, I tell myself, no, Alecto, this gets no more air time, not where you write, not in your heart, and not in your thoughts. But there is this one last thing which has been with me all of yesterday and so far all of today like background noise that surfaces unexpectedly. This weekend, even though the dates are off by two days because of leap year, is the last weekend we spent together. What I remember is being incredibly happy and thoroughly hopeful. I suppose in retrospect it was only a false breakthrough but the point is, I really felt good, safe, strong, I believed. On Monday morning we talked as I drove south from Springfield to Hartford, ending the call before I got to the place where I wrecked the first RAV so I could pay attention. I was blissfully happy. I remember this.
And keeping in mind that I can only speak for my own experience and his was very different as I understand it, the world turned upside down sometime during the day. By the end of the day nobody got the benefit of the doubt. I came to my knees in the shower the next morning, unable to breathe or see straight and at 10 PM, more or less 24 hours after the phone call that went so horribly wrong, I ended two and a half years on Tuesday night.
It was the lack of air in my lungs that pushed me over the edge. I lived that way once for a very long time and I was unable to effectively communicate what I needed in a way that it would be understood as something not so terribly enormous. It was from lack of air in my lungs that I fell down, literally and metaphorically. I don't mean to diminish his experiences at all; that would be wrong, unkind, and pointless. Everybody has what they have.
So this weekend I am OK. There is air in my lungs, I am experiencing the feeling of being happy just being. I was contacted by a man who calls himself Psychic Billy and I am tempted to write back because how he describes himself, to me, is simply preposterous. I am delighted. His photograph is gender neutral. If I was asked to guess I would say he was a woman because of the hoop earrings and the delicacy of his features, but he is not. You know what bothers me most? Not the psychic business but the fact that he's 49. Somehow I must have decided anyone younger than me is a very bad idea.
So this weekend I am GOOD and for that, I am terribly relieved. I seem to be managing to stay out of the minefields as well, and the daily Facebook memories of our last moments will drop out of my feed.
She misses him but will not speak of it. She works to stay out of the minefields too.
Just dance, Elizabeth. Dance and get yourself to class and back to the station on time. I'll take care of the rest.
Do they still make small cameras?