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.
Twelve Years, Give or Take.
3 months ago