We all have them, those stories from our childhood that are laugh-out-loud funny today, but at the time were like Greek tragedies that we thought would destroy our selves forever. I was having lunch with a friend the other day, and I started to tell her how much I admired her grace in getting out of things. How she could quietly resign from a women’s group of which we were both members. We both wanted to get out of this group, but she just faded and disappeared while I went out like a bull in a china shop, leaving repercussions that I’m still experiencing. Then it hit me.
“This is so like my ballet recital when I was five.”
“Well, there I was planted on the stage all curled up ready to unfold as the flower I was always meant to be. I was supposed to stay in first position and rise up with my arms unfolding gracefully as the bumblebees danced around the stage and the trees swayed to the music. Unfortunately, as I rose in my glory, I inadvertently nudged the passing bumblebee who stumbled into the swaying tree, who started crying, at which point the bumblebee pointed at me and yelled that it was all my fault — even though I had stayed planted in that first position, stoically taking the charge as if I were one of the Los Angeles Lakers’ defensive guards. I swear my feet never moved. Do you believe me?”
She nodded, fully aware that I still needed to have my traumatic experience validated fifty-five years later.
“Well, everything unraveled and the long and short of it was that my teacher told my parents — with me standing right there, mind you — that she thought I should move from ballet to tap, where my natural tendency toward passionate movement would serve me better. Tap? You can’t be serious? Who wanted to do tap? That was the end of my ballet career, but do not think for one moment that it hasn’t been with me every day since. Don’t think that I don’t plunge when others float into a room. When I walked down the aisle on my dad’s arm, may he rest in peace, don’t think that I wasn’t that flower struggling to make sure I didn’t trip on my dress, which was not even floor length lest I be distracted. And may I also say, now that we are talking about it, the tree hated me from the get-go and cried to get me in trouble. I’m sure of it. Whatever.”
She then told me her story.
She was in a dance class, and her number was a Mexican dance that was to take place around a piñata. They practiced the dance, which ended with them breaking open the piñata and continuing to dance around it after its contents had fallen to the floor. But they practiced without the candy in it, and so when they actually broke it open during the performance (in front of probably thousands of people), instead of continuing to dance around the candy on the ground, she immediately stopped and started to gather candy (perhaps the word scramble might better describe her action, but I want to be supportive here, since she was very kind about my trauma), and the dance number ceased to be what it was supposed to be and became a free-for-all as all the kids scrambled to get their share of the candy. When the teacher talked to her about it, she earnestly explained that it made no sense to continue dancing around after the candy was on the ground; no self-respecting Mexican child would do that. But the teacher just didn’t get it. I got it, though. It made perfect sense to me.
I felt as though sharing my story had purged the pain of the past, and I hope my friend felt the same way. I do not believe her story was quite as painful as mine because she wasn’t thrown out of the class afterward, but I think it’s best not to compare yourself to your friends. Nothing good comes of it. We must share our experiences, learn from them, and remember that the rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield for a reason. Look forward, Christine. I may even take a ballet class next winter after my hip replacement. You never know.