Both of my children are competitive dancers. They dance year round, but starting in the late summer they meet with their teammates beginning a schedule of jazz, ballet and choreography to prepare them to compete in the spring. Like other athletes they discipline their bodies learning to stretch and move to their highest level of excellence. Until I saw first hand their sweaty faces emerging from the studio door after hours of throwing their body into graceful movements, coordinated with teammates who were working equally hard to make the movements of a single body into the movements of a group, I didn’t understand that dance was a sport.
Which is saying something because I am nothing like the dance moms that make reality television and neither are the other dance moms and dads I know. I don’t watch my kids dance, you will be surprised but I sit and read, prop my laptop on my actual lap and write or work on client projects while my children master the movement and anatomy of their choreography. I might poke my head in the door if I hear the instructor ask the girls to “stop giggling and pay attention” one too many times. We don’t demand they be perfect dancers (they are not, but they love it) but we do demand that they are respectful to their teachers.
This year our competition season was cut in half, bisected cleanly by the before and after of Covid-19. Two competitions under our belts, we took a break for Spring Break and never returned to class or stage. It was a strange sensation, like the way your inner ear sways back and forth when you suddenly hit the breaks from speeding to standstill.
This week we got an email from our studio that our costumes purchased for a long cancelled Spring recital had come in and we could sign up for a time slot to come pick them up one by one. I put my mask and hand sanitizer in my purse, the new liturgy of Covid and drove over at my appointed time slot, a tightness in my throat.
Our dance studio owner meets me at the door wearing a mask and gloves, a bag with my kids’ name written in sharpie six separate costumes crammed in the plastic confines. I open the back hatch of our car, which I backed up to the curb and stood back so she can safely place the items in there without coming in my space. I tell her how much we miss her and my kids wave from the window.
Our dance studio owner doesn’t just teach my children dance. She has a kind and gentle spirit that encourages the kids while still demanding they bring their best to the studio. She has shaped their character to be thoughtful, kind, confident kids. She is the one who can crouch down, look them in the eye and tell them the truth about who they are and watch their little chins lift and shoulders straighten in recognition of their belovedness. In the safety of her studio my kids have met some of their best friends, girls who are silly and funny and kind. The parents I’ve met through the studio and kind, thoughtful and generous–offering carpooling to events, tucking spare snacks in their bag for my child that’s always hungry, lending books to one another to read in cool, dark auditoriums, pouring good humor into what can be an intense competitive setting.
I bring the costumes back to the car and we pull over to an adjacent empty parking lot. Crowded around the back of our car, my kids and I take each one out of its packaging and ooh and ahh over the color, style, shape and accessories. One costume is covered in the most beautiful berry colored sequins. They are sewn in waves that stretch down to a bright raspberry tutu. Another costume comes with a tiny seafoam green sequin pillbox hat and little white gloves. The kids shriek and squeal with delight over fringe and tutus. I begin to tear up in the small details of a life we no longer live, a life whose details small, intricate and beautiful were lost to me until they were truly lost. These unnoticeable and mundane details seemed precious in a moment where we can no longer revel in the richness of so many tiny details I had been taking for granted.
Every small sequin that made up the dazzling simplicity of our lives I had been taking for granted. We were never a “busy family.” Instead we opted for a simple, home centered life, with a few selected activities. But those activities were chosen with care and intention, a care and intention that had worn off over time until we forgot how much they truly made our life richer–not because of the passing of time they offered but because of the small details of those relationships.
I don’t know what after will look like on the other side of the sharp blade that has cut us as a culture in two. I know that I am changing and so are my children, I sense others are too and I know many of the changes will be for the good, cultivating a sense of wholeness that our former lives didn’t always align with fully. For me, though I will no longer take the small, shining details of the life we have chosen and created for granted. Whatever the future brings I will notice the details of each sequin sewn into the tapestry of my days, the relationships that shine reflecting the light of God’s love.
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