1/06/2011

Tutus Aren't for All Little Girls


This morning I decided to change the template of my blog page. When I looked at all the choices, to those that know me well, the choice of ballerina slippers seems an unlikely choice. Ah, but therein lies a story behind those slippers. Once I saw them, it reminded me instantly of my youth.

Years ago, when my sister Terri and I were only about 9 and 7, respectively, we were put in ballet classes. See, our father had been divorced for several years but had retained full custody of us. We were not what you would call ‘tomboys’ but we were also not ‘girly girls’ by any stretch. Up into that point, we had been without a mother in our home for years. So, no, we were most definitely not into pink or flowers, we did not have a mother to lovingly watch apply her makeup, we did not have smelly perfume in our home, we did not even know what a razor was, nor home baked cookies and other things little girls our age had exposure too.

Our escapades were not dance recitals, thus far in life, but were more likely to be scenes like the one involving Terri getting accidentally hit with a fly ball at a neighbor’s house when Jean, a boy close to my sister’s age, smacked a good fly ball right in the vicinity of my sister’s nose. I am not sure who cried harder at the sight of all that blood, her or me. So neither of us were sports girls, the first picked to be on anyone’s teams.

As far as cheerleading, we both thought it was stupid. Oh, except when it came to Terri cheering me on. For example, when I was being taught how to ride a bike and she wanted me to pick up the speed some, she would yell at me to hurry up. There was that one time, when she challenged me to go further up the big hill we lived on and come down it, with lightening speed. She was so proud of me, as I zoomed past her. She cheered loud enough that I thought all the neighbors could hear her, particularly when she screamed “Brake” at the precise spot where she has rehearsed with me multiple times to apply the brakes. This spot was important as we lived off a major road and running into it meant going straight into two lanes of major traffic,

Funny how that last time down the road I forgot that one little tip and all I can remember thinking about is “Wow, I am really going fast, this is pretty cool, I wonder how I slow down some?” The closer I got to the main road I took, what I saw as the only alternative, oblivious to my older sister’s heated warnings and screams. I quickly jolted my steering bars to the right turning the bike straight towards the creek bed alongside our house. As I literally flew off the road, up over the creek, I stayed composed enough to stay glued to my bike sea. Very uncermoniously, I then crumbled to the pile of rocks below. The rest is a blur - except for the sound of my sister Terri. I heard my sister, in muttered slow motion speed yell “Oh no…..” The next sounds I heard were her sobbing, during a ride to the ER. This time she cried harder than me, I am not sure if she was crying more out of anger or fear of Dad's anger over her failed teaching lesson to me!

In this environment, our step mother was brought onto the scene with two girls who she was determined to try to make into two proper ladies in waiting. One of the first things on the list was getting us abit more poised, thus ballet lessons. This was met with much resistance. I was a follower so if Terri did not like it, I would follow suit. She hated the thought of it. Even worse than having to be somewhere with a room full of strange little girls was having to wear the silly little tutus.

Off we were both carted to classes, religiously and we had to attend weekly. It felt like a death sentence to us both. We both did so poorly that our teachers strongly suggested we get a great deal of practice time at home. Great, the classes were bad enough and now, condemned to spend more time pointing toes!

Both of us showed no initiative to practice on our own so thus began, what we saw, as an extreme form of punishment, “mandatory ballet practice.” Oh yes, I can remember the sounds of us moaning and groaning while doing plies than were as graceful as the Incredible Hulk twirling on his tippie toes. We hated it was a major understatement.

Our dancing in life had been limited to merely doing impromptu performances to Lawrence Welk for our live-in housekeeper Mrs. Train on Saturday nights. Until this time, when our dad was out dating on weekends, Mrs. Train would let Terri and I run around the living room, like dancing fools, as if we were the stars of the show. When the music came on, we would proudly, take turns introducing each other and being the lead dancer. What fun we had and how good we thought we were! This ballet stuff, this was way different. This organized controlled performance dancing was for the birds, in our little heads. We still hated pink, giggled at each other in the silly looking tutus and thought the other little prissy girls in the classes were boring.

This ritual of go to dance classes and practice ballet almost daily went on for what seemed like months on end. Eventually, as the fights continued over 'why we must go,' our new mother finally decided it was not worth the battle time. I think all mothers find out, sooner or later, they must pick their battles more cautiously. The battle of the tutu was apparently not high enough of a priority to my mom to waste energy over. Thus, the tattered unloved, uncared for ballet shoes were put to rest. The tutus were retired to the basement. Perhaps they were given to some other little girls more appreciative of wearing pink. And my sister and I never ever looked back. Adieu.....

When I saw this picture, this template, I could not help but remember how silly we looked in ballet. Each of us standing there, like two farm hands dressed in pink from head to toe, with lower lips out so miserable and yet both Terri and I so wanting to be loved and needing to belong to something. We found our place in life, Terri and I, but thank goodness, for the wonderful world of dance, it was not in ballet.

Oh Terri, some people look ‘Pretty in Pink’ dear but, you and I most certainly, we did not!
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