I dream at night of being a ballerina.
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 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.