The dance of motherhood.

I dream at night of being a ballerina.

suzanne farrell holding onto air

I am lithe and long as I glide across the non-existent stage. My arms slender and pale, ethereal. I am so thin and so very strong and there is no shame; everything is exquisite. The arch of my foot tells the story. The the soft folds of my ballet dress float as I turn, pirouetting. I am Suzanne Farrell. I am Gelsey Kirkland. Long dark hair trailing behind me as I spin and jump, so free. It is my ascension to heaven.

I wake drenched in postpartum sweat, feet aching from unconsciously pointing in slumber to nurse the new baby.

My great grandfather was a bit of a scum. He was run out of town and went on to have an entirely different and separate family. My great grandmother, not one to suffer fools, bravely filed for divorce in a time when that simply was not done. She had four children and worked so hard, standing such long hours her uterus prolapsed at work. She was strong, but she was not lithe.

We met this other family once. A meet up of my grandmother and her half-sisters, one thrilled to have more family and one very put out that Daddy’s Girl has a girl before her. Never mind that he walked away and abandoned that very girl. I myself was always desperate for family and wanted to know them. Wanted to be with them. Wanted them to love me.

They didn’t.

They shared stories of my grandmother’s absent father and of his other grandchildren. I had cousins, they said. And they danced. I love to dance! I told them, all of 13 and full of dreams not yet unrealized. I thought we are the same, those cousins and me. Scoffing I was told no they dance. Ballet. With Balanchine and Baryshnikov, who’s poster hung on my wall above my bed. My heart soared. Maybe I could meet them? Maybe I could just glean a touch of that world from them. They had both left NYC Ballet and moved on to be Ballet Mistresses of their own companies by then. We never saw my grandmother’s half sisters again. One meeting was all. I don’t know if they kept in touch, perhaps my mother does.

I saw a ballet once in San Francisco listing my cousin’s name as Mistress. Was she in the building? Were we close? I imagined her perfect, strong.

The baby has violent hiccups and I dance my own dance of bounces, sways, and rhythmic pats until she quiets, giving a shuddering sigh and relaxes her wisp of a body fully into my arms. Gingerly I kiss her cheek, she still smells of heaven. She settles into her bed and I crawl back beneath the covers and try to rest.

I am not thin. I am not strong. I am not even a success anymore. I feel sad for myself that I haven’t accomplished anything of great worth. No real goals achieved. When you are small years seem to take forever to pass and suddenly you blink and your thirties are gone. And here I still am, tied to the ground. Heavy. I miss the theatre. I miss my old friends who smoked on the fire escape at intermission. I miss the stories they told. It’s as if I missing a limb.

But truly I am happy here and now. There is no music more beautiful than my children’s laughter. There is no ballet as intricate as their play, beautiful and painful.

The sun rises, as it always does and things look brighter. My sons and I pour love over their new sister, kissing her head to toe while we wonder what she will like. Princesses they say assuredly. And baseball. I hold her impossibly tiny foot and she points. A good arch. I smile and wonder will she want to dance too? Will she want to act? Whatever she chooses I envision her strong and ascending upwards to her dream.

Perhaps motherhood is it’s own version of Ballet Mistress. My company my brood of babes. Warm ups are Yo Gabba  and the Wiggles. The music the Beatles and Green Day and Sophia The First. The steps are wild and unpredictable. More Twyla Tharp than Balanchine.


15 comments on “The dance of motherhood.

  1. Jenni Chiu @ MommyNaniBooboo August 7, 2014 11:26 am

    I have nothing to say except that you put my heart into words here. Thank you for being a kindred spirit.

    • Stephanie October 8, 2014 5:06 pm

      Thank you so much for reading, I know you know exactly how I feel and what I mean.

  2. jodifurs August 7, 2014 11:47 am

    You are such a good mom.

    • Stephanie October 8, 2014 5:05 pm

      takes one to know one.

  3. Carrie Baughcum August 7, 2014 12:12 pm

    Oh my how beautiful this is! How beautiful you are. How much I want to grab you and hug you. I want to tell you what a fantastically beautiful, graceful and talented ballerina you are! My beautiful friend, what a bright bright future you have as a ballerina and so much much more!!!

    • Stephanie October 8, 2014 5:05 pm

      I adore you! Come visit me soon.

  4. Callie Feyen August 7, 2014 1:11 pm

    This is the most hauntingly gorgeous essay I’ve read all day, and I’m in the middle of a creative writing MFA residency. You and your writing are stunning.

    • Stephanie October 8, 2014 5:03 pm

      Callie that means so much to me, I admire your writing so much so for you to say that…really means something to me. Thank you.

  5. angelaamman August 7, 2014 3:50 pm

    Beautifully told, that longing for the past while knowing the present is gorgeous but different than we might have planned.

    • Stephanie October 8, 2014 5:03 pm

      Exactly. Thank you.

  6. Alison August 7, 2014 9:25 pm

    Truly stunning, all of it. May you dance fiercely into the night and into your children’s dreams.

    • Stephanie October 8, 2014 5:02 pm

      Thank you so much Alison, for reading and for your sweet comment

  7. Kristi Campbell - findingninee August 9, 2014 8:29 pm

    You ARE thin. You ARE strong. You ARE a success. It’s just not at what you thought it might be, at 13. This is beautiful, Stephanie. And I can’t WAIT to see you.

    • Stephanie October 8, 2014 5:02 pm

      I adore you. Thank you so much, let’s make sure we get everyone together sooner rather than later.

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