Hey, y’all. It’s Table Topic Tuesday.
And here’s today’s question:
When I was young, I wanted to be a ballerina. I started dance when I was just two. By the time I was in middle school, I was dancing in a ballet company and in a studio. Six days a week, my mom drove me to lessons. I loved the blonde wood floors, the echo of quick taps, the light drumming of toe shoes. I held the barre like I was holding everything. I know. It was a little intense. But the studio mirror was the only one I’d met that I didn’t mind looking in. I was a good dancer–a decent technician and a better performer. I was a flood of restless rhythms and choreography harnessed them, polished them and sometimes made them poetry.
Then, I started high school. I still loved dance–I was still a jazz-hands master–but I had peaked. And I hadn’t grown. My mom knew that I wasn’t tall enough to be a professional ballerina. Somewhere, I knew that too. But Mom loved me enough to say it out loud. I wrote a poem about the conversation when I was in college (judge accordingly).
It might as well have been
the red sea, no Moses in sight.
I sat tapping the toes of my pointe
shoes against the hardwood floor.
Mom & Grammy sat across from me
wearing identical looks and a perfume
with an oriental name–flowery, floating
light as a Japanese kite, my favorite smell.
“You’re beautiful, smart.”
“But you’ll never be an Amanda.”
Amanda was the company’s prima ballerina–
Coppelia, the Sugar Plum Fairy–with long
limbs and arches high as the Brooklyn Bridge.
I just hadn’t grown yet.
I had led the sea of lemonade across
the stage, tiny bourre’es against the hard black.
“You’d make a great cheerleader.”
I didn’t answer. Just pulled the bobby pins
from my bun and dropped them to the kitchen
table one by one.
I traded my port de bras for rah rah, cleared
a space in my closet for poms. I stuffed
blood-stained toe pads against the worn
wood, wound ribbon around the frayed
satin and placed the box on the top shelf.
Up there, I found a picture of Mom.
She wanted to be a Rockette.
She was sixteen, thin in her drill team
uniform, her legs looked longer in
the white boots that came up to mid-thigh,
her foot well above her 5’2 frame in
a perfect kick.
So, spoiler alert, I did not become a ballerina. Thank goodness. Because, in the background of ballet, I was always writing. There are stories scribbled in my elementary-school notebooks. I was co-editor of my high school paper, editor of my college paper, sure I was going to be a serious journalist, a newspaper woman. See, there are still restless rhythms in me and retelling other people’s stories harnessed that.
Then I fell into advertising by surprise, so I become a writer when I grew up. In writing, height doesn’t matter. All 4-feet-11-inches of me can always grow and never outgrow it. As long as I have pencil and paper and passion.
Plus, now I have more fun dancing than I ever have when Tucker and I have living-room Just Dance battle royales.
My friend Lindsay says: