Every year for the last ten years, this time of year is eaten up by ‘recital’.
Some years it coincides with graduation, two years it coincided EXACTLY on our anniversary. Sometimes Mate volunteers to be security, and before the second wave of kids, I was doing some sewing and piecework for the costumes.
But every summer, once a year, we sit, sweating, in the 60 year old theatre, in 105 degree heat (okay, one year it was 80…) and watch our Chicken–and for the last two years, the Cave Troll–perform dancing and/or gymnastics.
It’s sort of wonderful, actually.
I mean, it was hot–it was so hot that 1/2 through the first act of the four hour recital (not kidding. I might have even underestimated that a bit, I think it was 4 1/2 hours…3 to 7:30 p.m. No lie.) I dumped two ounces of water down my shirt, and by the time intermission hit, there wasn’t even a sweat-spot between my boobs. Seriously–hot. Uncomfortable. I kept nodding off when my kids weren’t up there–even for the numbers I wanted to see. But there WERE some numbers I wanted to see. Chicken’s main dance teacher, Joanna, has taught a number of her teachers–I’ve seen the dance teachers grow up too, and when the dance teachers perform, it really is something special. Chicken’s dance-class teacher, Em, has gone from bony adolescent to fan-TAB-ulous young woman, and watching her dance with the young men she grew up with brings a lump to my throat.
That and the Senior dances.
When kids ‘graduate’ from high school, they also ‘graduate’ from Joanna’s. That doesn’t mean we never get to see them again–it just means that they’re no longer kids, and they get their ‘senior dance’ and they get treated as adults as well. So they get to choreograph their own dance to music that they’ve chosen–it’s always special, and usually a little teary, and yesterday was Bethany and Andrew’s turn to graduate.
Bethany and Andrew are special. Their sister, Megan, is in my daughter’s class, and all three adopted siblings (all five, actually, Brandon, their brother, graduated five years ago and helps with whatever he can–it’s his job) have special needs. Not ‘special needs’ Big T style, where we have to repeat things ad infinitum, and sometime we need a baseball bat with a railroad spike in it to help him get irony–no, nothing that easy. All of these children are SEVERELY mentally disabled, some of them with physical problems to boot. Bethany doesn’t have any understandable speech capabilities. Andrew does speak, but he suffers from premature aging–he’s been bald for five years.
You’d think they would be a bad match for a dance program, and there are challenges. (My daughter frequently muttered that she wished someone ELSE would get the job of telling Megan where to be on the dance floor, but once someone else GOT that job, she was a little hurt–she’d been doing it for three recitals.) For Bethany and Andrew, Andrew–who is actually a very proficient dancer, with a STRONG sense of beat and a powerful, fire-hydrant proportioned body–has always been in charge of Bethany. During recital, Bethany, happy to be on stage, happy to be dressed in constume, would work hard at the moving when the other kids did, but often needed a nudge or a prod or a hand to be told where to go next, and her big brother provided.
For Bethy’s Senior dance, she was the only one on stage.
The music–a terribly sweet John Meyer song–played, and Bethany watched in fascination as her shadow from the spotlight made her every dance barre pose look gorgeous and graceful. She was dressed in her prettiest pink organdy dancing dress, and SHE was the star. Nobody told her what to do or where to go (although Joanna came out for a moment and danced with her, which just sent the tear factor over the edge) and for these moments, she was the prettiest of princesses, the most darling of ballerinas, the shiniest of stars, and every pose she made was perfect. Sometimes, she would stop watching her shadow in the spotlight long enough to turn towards the audience and smile and clap because it was all so perfect, and she was glad we were there to share.
People in the audience who had never seen Bethany were in tears when the dance was over.
People, you don’t see undiluted joy that often–and they’ll never be able to sell it. My price was five hours of sweating in a darkened theatre between cheering for my kids. Dust for diamonds, if you ask me.
And Chicken and Cave Troll? They’re in recovery at the moment. Chicken’s big moment (and Joanna, of whom she has been a little bit in awe since she was three years old would not believe this) was not the dancing, it was the curtain call. She was so glad that she got to be in the middle, with her arm slung around Joanna’s shoulder at the end of the recital.
The Cave Troll’s big moment was getting his Spiderman action figures after the recital. He did turn to the audience and wave and smile (as per Chicken’s order, actually) but really, he was ready to go long before they let him, and as far as he was concerned, it was his usual potato-on-a-gym-mat routine, except this time, he was hotter, tireder, and hungrier. Just like at the State Fair, he’s been JOBBED!!!
Lucky me, I’ve gotten several times my investment in both time and money. He gets the hugs as residuals.