My daughter flits and floats and flies in her pink leotard on Friday afternoons. She squeals with excitement when she sees her ballet-reena friends at the end of each week. All four girls are dressed in shades of light pink and black with pink leotards and cascading skirts adoring their tiny waists. The left foot of each girls’ ballet slipper holds tiny gemstones, a reminder to the girls about left vs right and sparkle vs no sparkle. My daughter prances into class, twirls around to watch her skirt spin and then slides onto the purple butterfly (her designated spot for ballet rehearsal). She giggles and squeals, again, with excitement as her favorite Beauty and Beast song fills the room.
Her very young instructor, perhaps a senior in high school, begins class with a series of exercises such as pointing the toes and then flexing. My daughter and her ballet-reena gal pals all point-and-flex at various times, a sort of off-beat, yet beautiful rhythm that is created by this small group of friends. I love watching toes extend to the wall while another girl spins in her seat (rather than extending her toes). I giggle when my daughter lays down on the hard, wood floor to take a break from the strenuous exercise and says, “I need some chocolate.” Again, all the girls bubble up with giggles and the teacher once, again, looses another moment of ballet rehearsal.
And then the bright pink pom-poms are placed in a line – each spaced 3-feet from the other. All the ballet-reenas create a line (with my daughter as the lead) and begin what is their favorite part of rehearsal: leaping. The teacher explains to the giggle-button girls to leap and extend over each pom-pom. She wants them to fly and soar. She fills them up with so much spirit that when the leaps begin it doesn’t matter what they look like, because the girls are truly in love with flying and leaping. My daughter, a bit athletic, runs and jumps over every pom-pom. She is fast. And she cares less about her form and more about cheering on the next ballet-reena. She watches as other ballet-reenas skip and then kick-up their legs over the pom-pom. She claps when her gal-pal meets her at the other side of the pom-pom line, a form of triumph. And then she does it, again. She leaps with her skirt floating in the air and lands and then leaps and …
The rehearsal spins into a series of little girl jokes about butterflies and cupcakes – and then more giggles. When they practice their twirls it is difficult not to also laugh out loud when the girls twirl into each other, fall onto the floor, and then bubble-up with giggles, again. And the instructor is cued for class to end when my daughter’s ballet slippers come flying off, because they “are too tight,” and she just can’t run in them. The instructor shrugs her shoulders and then smiles. “Okay, girls, class is over,” she announces as she gracefully walks into the back room to quickly return with a plastic bucket. The girls all run, squealing with delight, as she lowers the bucket to their small 3-foot bodies and lets their hands choose a lollipop. This is the glorious reward for the giggles, the leaps, the toe points, the giggles, and more giggles.
And, as the ballet-reenas rush to their parents and siblings, showing them their lollipops, my daughter approaches her teacher. She boldly says, “Miss Sandy, can I please have two lollipops? It is not for me. It is for my brother.” Miss Sandy lowers the bucket down to my daughters eye-level to allow her to choose a lollipop for her brother. She carefully digs for his favorite flavor – watermelon. Then, she lifts her head, and says, “thank you, Miss Sandy.” Miss Sandy smiles warmly and says, “I know. And, you’re welcome.”
Moments like this make me look like a fabulous parent. A beautiful exchange of manners and compassion. A true example of thinking of others. However, this moment is nothing about me or my parenting.
When you take away the layers of pink and giggles and glitter, my daughter is a well filled with compassion and caring for others. Inside my daughter is a spirit that guides her always to look out for her brother, to be his angel, to be his protector. She knows that the lollipop will bring a smile to his face. She knows that he may or may not say thank you. She knows that he may or may not even eat it. But, she does it any way and she does it every Friday at the end of each ballet-reena class.
And, as we walk to the car, I watch her lollipop twirl around in her mouth. The strawberry and kiwi flavors filling her cheeks and tongue with delight. And when her lollipop is gone, she still holds onto her brother’s watermelon lollipop. She holds onto it tightly, protectively, with her pink taffeta skirt bellowing from her car seat and her ballet-slippers on the wrong feet. She will always ask for two lollipops and wear pink and run fast. And, I believe, she will always protect her brother’s spirit.
Little Girl Ballerina Ballet Dancer Dancing is a painting by Pablo Romero