Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tiny Dancer

For over a decade now, the summer has started with a night of dance. Two nights, actually, if you count the dress rehearsal. The bitter cold auditorium filled to capacity to watch the multitude of dresses and music and choreography. But no matter how many people are on stage... I only have eyes for you.

Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to find you among all the other tall, thin girls with their hair pulled up. The groups have grown from a few in a static row, laughably attempting to remember the steps while craning their necks from side to side to watch their neighbors... to your groups now. Dozens of girls whipping around in long lines. First you are there. Then you are suddenly there. Popping in and out of vision. Your smile fixed firmly in place. Your timing always perfect. No longer is it just enough to remember your part, but now you must fit in seamlessly to all the others, forming a single unified unit devoid of individualism.

You have already grown out of believing me when I tell you that you are the best thing on the stage. The only one that knows their part. The one with the best smile. You know that it is only my job to tell you such things. You chide me for focusing the camera on you, instead of on all the girls together. For you, the interest is in the whole dance. For me... I can only see the tree and not the forest. The forest overwhelms. But I remember the tree when it just a sapling, and I remember the endless nights and days of care that we lavished on you so that you would bloom.

When you watch the video, you make fun of yourself for all of your mistakes. Hypercritical to the end. An unflattering trait that comes genetically, I'm afraid. You roll your eyes at my attempts to deflect your criticism of yourself, because you know so much more than I do. And that I am not really observant because my eyes are blinded by love.

And perhaps you are right. But I notice one thing. In the ballet number, right toward the end... you stand in the back, in the center of the stage against a giant blue scrim. I watch the graceful lines you make in silhouette. And just for a moment, your fingers splay slightly in a break of form. Then all the other girls leave you alone on the stage before you finally make your way off... the last girl among all the other trees in the forest of girls.

There is a tear in my eye. Because I noticed the splayed fingers. And it reminds me, viscerally, of the way you were ten years ago. I remember those sames hands... smaller and more childlike... splayed in the same unique way, which made you.... you.

And I love you all the more for it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rear View Mirror

I lay in my bed this morning enjoying just laying in my bed. The sheets were fresh. The pillow was mine. The air was damp and muted and all was quiet.

Then came a horrific crash which sounded like thunder, but in my room. I threw on some shorts and ran down the hall to find my youngest still abed covered with her covers. Then I ran to the next room and my son was making his bed... so everyone was alright. "What was that?" I asked. My daughter pointed to the foot of her bed where she had stretched so hard that she kicked over her toy bin. I had obviously missed this fact when checking to make sure that a tree hadn't come through the roof. Toys were everywhere and she was smiling.

Good morning.

I wonder about those moments. Those moments just before the crash. Those moments right before impact when all is well and all is quiet. How easy it is for us to take those moments for granted and assume that they will keep coming and coming.

Last week I got an email telling me of an accident. A boy that we knew was in a crash. This boy is one of the most talented athletes his age... and at age 11 he was know already across the country for his skill. But last weekend he and his father ran in to each other on motorcycles and for a while it looked like the boy wouldn't even survive... let along play hockey again. I couldn't help but ponder the events right before the crash. A beautiful, sunny day... perfect for play, full of happiness and joy... moments that we wish would last forever. But life doesn't play that way.

There is a balance, I suppose. I know many parents who refuse to let their kids live because they are so consumed by fear that something might happen to them that they cloister them away from everything. But this approach, perhaps, ultimately does more long term damage than the scars of all but the worst accidents. Fear consumes us so that we can no longer lay in bed and enjoy the moments of quiet because we just know that a crash is waiting around the corner.

We are merely mortal, regardless of how godlike we feel in certain moments. We are flesh and blood. It reminds me of the end of the movie Patton... when Patton is walking off into the sunset of the movie, having won the war... and a few months before his own crash and demise would come. He related a story as follows:

"For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him.Sometimes, his children, robed in white... stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning... that all glory... is fleeting."

I think all we can do with the lives that we have is to enjoy the parade... or the quiet bed... or the moments of joy and sunshine in the moments that we are given. Maturity brings the knowledge that crashes will come... and we must be prepared to pick up the spilled toys... or deal with the more serious consequences. But there can be no greater regret in life than looking in the rear view mirror and realizing that we missed those moments because we were too busy worrying about those crashes to come.