Monday, June 15, 2009

The Ballet Moms

It wasn’t, most of us acknowledged, the best time of day to take a dance class.
The seven four-year-olds were often sluggish at 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, their toddler siblings in tow downright cranky from being awakened during deep slumbers. Natalie, the oldest of the tiny ballerinas by only a few months, was often carted asleep sack-o-potatoes style over her mother’s shoulder into the studio following the end of her kindergarten day.
Of course, by the time the slippers were on and Miss Tera cranked up the princess theme songs, the girls were happily re-energized and we, the Ballet Moms, took our places atop zebra-striped chairs facing the glass.
Granola bars were opened. Coloring books were appropriated. Toy cars were freed from deep purses.
Ryan, the oldest of the toddlers, found the stash of lollipops on the front desk. This began, in the mind of the Ballet Moms, the Great Lollipop Management Issue of 2009-10.
Despite this, it was a no-brainer of an afternoon for us. As busy stay-at-home mothers, we were forced to stay in one place for a whole hour with few interruptions. The luckiest of us even got to sit down for most of it.
At first, we mostly paid attention to our dancing daughters. We watched, acutely interested, to see how well they listened in a group then to how well they appeared to execute moves requested from the teacher.
Then, we witnessed buds of friendship form. Elizabeth poked Maddie. Addison smiled at Natalie’s twirl. Sydney reached for Katie’s hand.
So the Ballet Moms relaxed.
And, like birds on a telephone wire, we began to twitter.
Who knew how to score tickets to the Princess character dinner at Disney World?
Who was holding their kid back from kindergarten?
Who had read the vampire thriller “Twilight?”
By Christmastime, the zebra seats became a front porch of sorts and no one was more thrilled to hear of my third pregnancy than the Ballet Moms. I learned about their c-sections and their long labors and their milk production.
“Well,” I told my obstetrican as he recorded the pace of my unborn baby’s heartbeat, “the Ballet Moms say that if the heat beat is fast, the child is a girl.”
He looked at me like I was crazy, but ultimately the Ballet Moms were right.
Of course they were.
By Valentine’s Day, I was looking more forward to lessons than my child.
Baby Grayson began walking. Two-and-a-half-year-old Rachel, so chubby with a thumb in her mouth, started preschool mid-term. There was discussion about Maddie’s family’s possible move with her military family and a crisis over another child’s presumed hearing loss.
Next, sweet Koral and little Lillian joined the class. Their mothers quickly found seats in the lineup.
Spring sprung and Miss Tera measured the girls for their recital dresses for a routine to be performed to “Babyface,” a Mowtown hit from the 1960s.
The Ballet Moms wondered if any of the girls would actually remember the steps.
On May 30, they at least looked the part wearing green and pink polka dot ruffled skirts, huge pink bows looped into their shiny black tap shoes.
Lillian’s mom sprayed clouds of glitter in their hair and on their shoulders; Sydney’s mom swiped lipstick on them; Maddie’s mom ushered them behind the red velvet curtain in a line like paper doll cutouts holding hands.
They remembered some steps but not all, of course.
It was good enough for the Ballet Moms, though, who rewarded the girls with hugs and kisses and overpriced flowers which were definitely worth the cost.
Afterwards, I deployed our family to the lobby to wait while I retrieved Elizabeth from the backstage holding tank. As we descended down the steps with a tide, I saw Addison’s mother bobbing along up the stairs, part of another.
She reached out as she inched forward and patted my belly.
“Good luck,” she said, “with the rest of your pregnancy.”
She was moving North, probably towards soccer practice and gymnastics and a summer vacation while I was going South to art lessons and preschool camp and long nights with a newborn.
Children, it seems, are great ambassadors. But their circumstances and thus ours force untimely endings to new beginnings.
We will, however, hold onto the snapshots of four-year-olds in polka dot dresses for the rest of our lives. It is my guess, too, that we’ll all remember the zebra-striped chairs each time we hear the song “Babyface.”

Julie Blair is a Dallas-area freelance journalist who loves hot pink and glittery hairspray. She once donned pink tights and a black leotard to fulfill a college liberal arts requirement.