Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Window (Dear Amanda Lily)

This post is for Amanda Lily. My hope is that one day she will look back on it, and remember the excitement of this time of year. She will have her memories, because she has lived it. But, just in case she ever wonders about my thoughts and feelings, they will be here for her in black and white.

I admire you. You are dedicated to dance in a way beyond your years. I watch as you work at your art, and push yourself to be better. Other ballet parents often ask me why I stay at the ballet school, and watch through the observation window, instead of just dropping you off. The first few years, it was because you were young, and I was afraid you might need me. Now, it is because you amaze me. I find so much joy in watching you dance. Those two hours a week are a blessing to my heart. No matter what craziness is going on in my life.

It all started when you were three years old. Your very first ballet class.....I watched there in the window. You made me laugh, and I could never understand the patience Mrs O had with you and the other tiny dancers. At your first recital, with hundreds of people watching, you did every move to perfection, but you wouldn't look out at the crowd. You turned your entire head away, refusing to even acknowledge the audience was even there. You made me so proud.

Over the next three years, I stood at the window. It didn't take long for me to realize the window was one of my favorite places on earth to be. I watched as you grew physically, and learned the value of hard work, manners, humbleness, and grace. At your next recital, you were a different girl. You had a small part with your ballet friend, Sophia, where the two of you had to walk to the very front of the stage and do turns. As I watched you rehearse from my spot at the window, I wondered if you even realized that you would need to do that part in front of the same audience you refused to acknowledge the year before. When the time came, I knew my heart would beat right out of my chest. You did your part to perfection, and you looked at the crowd the entire time. You had grown. You made me so proud.

Your six year old ballet year was with Mrs Watson. I wasn't sure how you would respond to having a new dance teacher, but through the window, I saw you blossom. Now you were learning  pre classical ballet steps, basic classical ballet poses, and finally working on the ballet barre. Many of the girls whom you had been dancing with for the past three years, were showing signs of boredom. They moved on to other things like cheer, jazz, or softball. I asked you several times if you would like to try something new. You always replied "no", you wouldn't even entertain the idea. The cheerleader in me cried, but that was my thing, ballet was all yours. I recall one day watching from the window, and seeing your face light up with excitement. Mrs Watson was having a conversation with you. I couldn't tell what she was saying. What could it be? As you came out of class with your ballet friends, you had the biggest smile on your face, and you came straight to me. You did not run. You walked with grace, and conducted yourself with grace. You gave me a hug and told me in my ear that you were the lead in the recital. You were six years old, and conducted yourself better than most adults. You made me so proud. In the car on the way home, we screamed with delight. We had a conversation about hard work paying off, and what it means to be dedicated. A few months later, after much practice your class performed "Mary had a little lamb." You were Mary. You danced the part like you owned the stage. You made me so proud.

This past year brought a new world. You moved to the upper classical ballet division, and a new Big window. A new instructor, who has been a principal ballet dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, and a scholarship student at the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School, Mrs Wheeler. She walks (floats) by, and I stand up straight. She is an amazing instructor. She brought many new challenges for you, and you always took her instruction to heart, and worked diligently at her corrections. She has high expectations, while being very nurturing at the same time. I was very nervous watching you from a different window. This was the BIG window where the BIG dancers danced. And, the loud classical music came blaring from this window each week. This was the BIG window that you and I stopped at several times over the past few years, to watch those big dancers after you got out of your dance class. You would watch them doing pirouettes and your eyes would grow big. I would tell you that if you kept up your hard work, you would one day be dancing behind that window. And now you are. This window still attracts little girls leaving the smaller studio. I loved the looks on their faces when they asked me which "big girl" is my daughter. I pointed you out and they looked at you like you were a prima donna. They watched as you would pirouette and spot across the room with ease. You had no idea they were watching you as an inspiration. You made me so proud.

The BIG window and I had a bit of a falling out this year. It was about the "testing" It pained me to watch as Mrs Wheeler asked you and your friends to individually dance as she observed to see if you were each able to advance to the next level of dance next year. She took notes. I wondered if you girls even knew what was going on. She had taught you all the correct placement of your bodies, heads, even your finger tips. She told a few of us Mothers that she was looking for "technique and strength." I couldn't even stand to watch from my perch at the window. So, I walked away from the window for the two weeks of testing....I sat in my car and played fruit ninja, or talked my nervousness away to my friend Heather, who reassured me that all would be fine. She was right. Mrs Wheeler called me to ask if I would be ok with her skipping you past the next level of ballet. In her opinion, you were ready, but she wanted to be sure I would be ok with the time commitment. There was a catch though. I couldn't share the good news with you, because she would be sending out formal letters to all of the girls in two weeks. She didn't want any talk of who was placed where until she was prepared.....in two weeks. So, I found myself watching you through the window,as you were sweating and working your butt off. I wished so much that I could tell you the secret. When I did tell you, two weeks later, you laughed with excitement. Then you covered your mouth and cried. You told me that you didn't understand why you were crying. I explained to you that sometimes we cry out of happiness. Your reaction made me cry too. You understood the value of your dedication. You made me so proud.

A couple of weekends ago was your end of the season recital. Your class danced as flowers. You were as poised as could be, and danced beautifully. Your part consisted of coming out from under the huge hoop dress of a man who was on stilts. The rather large flower that was in your hair got caught on the hoop as you came out. My heart skipped a beat. Would you let it rattle you? You kept going, dancing with grace as if it never even happened. I doubt anyone even noticed beside us, because you never missed a beat. You made me so proud.

Who knows what next year may bring for me and the window. You will be dancing three nights a week, two hours each night. It seems like a lot of time to stand there. Maybe I will just stay half of the time, and get my "fix." You know, Dad has no problem being on the football field practicing with Steven and his team for hours a week, so why wouldn't I stay at my window? It's my way of supporting you. And it works for us. You are such a fiercely independent child, never really wanting or needing any one's help, including mine. I think that trait serves you well in ballet. So, I'll stand in my window in silent support of my girl, as you make me so proud.

I'm sure one day in the far away future, you will be reading this post. I wonder if you will have followed your childhood dream of becoming a professional dancer with a ballet company that travels the world? Or, maybe you will own your own dance studio, and share your passion with others. Or, maybe you will have abandoned dance all together. Where ever life takes you, I'm sure if you look around, there will be many more "windows." And I'll be standing in them thinking...you make me so proud.

                                                                                 Love you always, Mom

                             This years recital season in pictures.

Getting ready for a long fun weekend.

Backstage during rehearsals.


Your beautiful dance class.

Behind the curtain just after dress rehearsal.

Mrs Wheeler and you in dressing room.

Performance Leap!

All smiles during performance.

Family pictures after final performance. Uncle Pete, Aunt Heather, Ms. Heather, and Mia were all there to support you this year as well. They were all camera shy.

Papa Bear

Papou' Steven and Sophie

Uncle Larry

You and me.

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