Tuesday, December 13, 2005

hodges podges

I'm noticing some common, and undoubtedly rather overplayed, themes on my blog:
the art of poverty
random humiliating experiences
wacky work hijinx
spinstery sentiments

I must increase the number of topics...any suggestions? Here, I'll get us started:

favorite melons
wardrobe malfunctions (Rated G)
things I can't seem to get rid of
the chronic usage of misnomers when speaking to smart people
famous jewish sports legends

...anything else?

Oh, and here's another one of George, at his first real haircut. I do believe there is not one cuter than he. Forsooth...

a holiday highlight

So what do you do on a frigid Saturday evening, when your roommate goes out of town, and you’ve got no man to snuggle on the couch with? Why, you dress up like an elf and hit the neighboring ward Christmas party, that’s what!

My recently married friend, GW, out of absolute desperation, emails me last week and asks me to PUH-LEEZ be an elf at her ward’s Christmas party. She hadn’t found anyone else who would do it. Shocker. She explained that I’d only be needed for an hour, I’d greet the children, and ask them what they’d like for Christmas, and then hand them a little goodie bag. Only an hour, huh? Okay. I agreed to do it with the understanding of a few things: (a) I was only doing it for her; (b) I sympathized with her position of trying to find someone last minute and fulfill her calling; and (c) there would be no prancing, no dancing, and definitely no gallivanting in my underpantsing. GW agreed. She also mentioned that a costume would be provided.

Saturday arrives. I find GW and receive my instructions. I am to change into the costume immediately, report back to the cultural hall, and await my introduction over a microphone. After which, I shall take my chair in the corner next to the goodie bags and work my elfish selfish. GW then hands me a large bag and says, “We’ve got a great* costume for you!”

*GREAT: …9: markedly superior in character or quality; …[Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary]

I couldn’t find a photo of the exact costume I was given, but here is something very like:

Indeed…markedly superior. I will also have you know, that NEVER did I stand in first position and bend my knees with my hand in the air, as modeled by Becky Jingle Bells here.

In the ladies room, I pulled out each piece of the costume (the hat, tights, tunic, belt, etc.) and laugh-whined for a full ten minutes. I was having trouble with the idea that I was going to change out of perfectly good clothes and actually WEAR this. I decided to do my hair and makeup first, obviously because it meant less time in the costume. I put on the green opaque tights, thus deepening my already acute disdain for the appearance of my legs. I put on the red long-sleeved shirt. Then….the Robin Hood tunic. Oh, the tunic. I come out of the stall, and look at myself in the full-length mirror. I can’t get myself to leave the bathroom. The tunic barely comes down below my bum, and if I raise my arm even slightly, we’ve got Debbie Does Christmas. Not to mention the fact that I look so unbelievably ridiculous I could puke all over my silver elf shoes.

Finally, GW comes in after me. They’re ready for me. I show her the tunic problem. Tunic problems were a common concern back in the year of our Lord 1570, not so much anymore these days. GW ascribes herself as my tunic guardian. She says: “Oh, we have to get a picture of you before you leave!” Daggers sprang from my eyes and pierced the center of her forehead, after which she swiftly took back her previous statement. Together we enter the cultural hall, as Sister Friendly introduces me with this tired/energetic voice…

“Okay, boys and girls! Here she is! Santa’s Little Helperrrrrrrr!”

All eyes are on me, the slutty, fashion-senseless elf. I’m hearing whispers from the parents about my green legs, my pointy hat, my alien shoes. I recognize some faces, all of whom are wearing this look of both amusement and pity, as they shake their heads slowly from side to side. Cameras poised. I wanted to smash those cameras.

GW strategically stands in front of me as I begin my descent into the chair, careful not to expose myself. When what did my wondering did appear? Hordes of children, and gladly zero reindeer!

The minute I started talking to these kids, I felt my self-consciousness evaporate. They were so into it! They were excited to tell me about their Christmas plans. They wanted to sit on my lap and give me hugs. I could not believe it. I was enveloped in the most innocent and perfect love that only children can give you. I felt bad that I had been so selfish and vain about it all.

The hour flew, and GW told me my time was up. I said goodbye to the last two little boys who were with me, and carefully rose from my perch to change back into my street clothes.

I can’t say I would do it again. In fact, I don’t think I would. But the kids made it totally blog-worthy, and one of the top three choice experiences of Christmas 2005.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

george thomas

This is George. My old boss. I met him when he was 4 months old. He's now three months shy of his 2nd birthday. George is my dream boy.

I nannied George for almost a full year, and in that year, I'm convinced I learned just as much about life as he did. I miss him. This morning, I got this photo from his mom. The family is down in Connecticut now.

I was taking George for a walk on an incredibly cold day in April when I got the call offering me my current job. After I had accepted the new position, and hung up, I looked down into the stroller, at the back of this beautiful boy's head, and started to cry quietly. I was leaving Georgie. I felt like we were breaking up. And in that moment, what killed me, is that he had no idea that I just accepted a job that would separate us for good.

Do you know how much fun it is to just show up to work in jeans and play with a little boy all day? Lemme tell ya. Fun. Exspecially when we're talking about George. So happy, so fun. So expressive. So not a finicky eater. So went down for his naps without major drama, so read stories with me. So. So. Fun.

He was my pal. We would make each other laugh constantly. One of our favorite games was "wear the toys". We'd put strange objects on our head and walk around like royalty until they objects fell off our heads, and then that was my cue for a big reaction which invoked silly laughing.

I loved singing to George, because he'd just stare at me the whole time I was singing to him. I loved our bedtime ritual: music & dancing; bubble bath with dinosaurs; jammies; stories; songs; snuggles; bed.

I miss you Georgie. Here are the lyrics to one of the songs I made up for you; you knew it well:

oh i have a little friend and his name is George
we neither of us been to the Valley Forge
but we like to sing and play and we snuggle, too
and mary says to Georgie "i love you"

oh i have a little friend and his name is George
we neither of us seen the crystal gorge
but we like to swing on swings and the sandbox, too
and mary knows that Georgie loves her too.

Friday, December 02, 2005

a love story

I started dancing at the age of 4. Well, let’s be real here. At age 4, I’m not sure how much “dancing” I was actually doing; it probably looked more like running, skipping, jumping, and when called upon, putting my arms up awkwardly to make a halo around my little toehead.

At the age of 5 or 6, Mom switched me to a more “dignified” dance studio, where I stayed for many years. Severance School of Dance was a second home, in many respects. I don’t remember this, but my mother tells me that on my first day of class at my new studio, while all my other classmates were running around laughing and enjoying this big open space with mirrors, I solemnly walked directly to the barre, laid both my hands on it, and began my plies. Like a duck to water. Age 6.

At that age, the dance studio mandates you take both tap and ballet classes. I hated tap. I never wanted to go to tap. Tap was loud and unsophisticated, and it just wasn’t very pretty like ballet was. Ballet makes you pretty. Of course, I’ve taken a few tap classes as an adult and totally love it now. At age 7, however, I had had my fill of the tap. All I wanted to do was ballet. And I think at age 8, I got my wish.

The years went on, and I slowly began adding more and more classes. By sixth grade I was at the studio nearly every day. I remember taking two classes in a row some days. Semi-private lessons (lessons with only one or two more girls enrolled), I even remember arranging something with my school to let me out a little early to make an early afternoon ballet class. And I can't even put into words the feeling of buying your first pair of toe shoes at age 10. I. Loved. It. I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

Age 9 I think was when I auditioned for Fresno Ballet Rep and made it into the junior company. First year of Nutcracker, I was one of the little people who jumps out of the big skirt (as depicted in photo above). When I was 12, I danced the role of Clara, which is by far the highlight of my entire childhood. These years were great as a child. Christmas was Nutcracker. Nutcracker was Christmas. Sleeping in pink rollers for those perfect ringlets, stage makeup, the smell that dressing rooms have (hair spray, sweat, mold from the costumes).

My father, who played in the symphony, was always in the pit for the performances. It kind of made it a family thing. I’m not sure if Dad ever got to see me dance. But I love the image in my mind of him playing that beautiful, soaring, Waltz of the Flowers, while I danced to it. I remember Dad was always in my thoughts during performances. I can honestly say that being a young ballerina gave me a great sense of beauty, focus, and the virtue of self-discipline. Only when I was dancing did I ever feel beautiful. At such a young age, I felt I already had a true purpose, and that God was watching my little feet with a smile on His face.

It is here where the story becomes less magical. Starting at the age of 13, my body…well more than that, really…began to change. Suddenly, I was this completely different shape I had to re-train to make turn or jump or kick. It was difficult, to say the least…and as my body changed more and more…I became more and more devastated. My legs were not as long as the other girls, my feet were not as good, and my turnout was pretty average compared to all my friends. I couldn’t get the long lines that the others had. My allegro, and my fouette turns were pretty solid, but my adagio work, my extension and heighth, left a lot to be desired. Everything became harder to execute. I’d leave the studio on a regular basis totally in tears. My heart was breaking.

I’d go with my friends to San Franciso and L.A. to audition for their summer dance companies. They’d get accepted…I would not. I’d be home all summer getting letters from Erin or Mar’Kel or Kelly telling me about their teachers and what they were learning. It was hard, especially for the 14 year-old awkward thing that I was. I wanted to do what they were doing.

By age 15 I was burned out. I’d been working hard for so long, and I wasn’t advancing very much. I’ll never forget watching Erin work a combination out with our teacher in a corner of the studio lobby once, just after she’d returned from Houston Ballet for the summer, and I watched the sharpness in her footwork, her line and her form, in total amazement. She looked like a real professional. I thought to myself…I can’t do that. And she’s two years younger than I.

It was time to tell Mom.

Mom suggested we give it one more year. “Let’s give it one more year, we’ll put you in whatever private lessons you need, and we’ll do the round of auditions again in the winter, and…let’s give it one more year.”

Couldn’t do it. I’d lost every single thing I loved about it. It was drudgery now, and a year felt like a prison sentence. Mom saw it in my eyes, and she didn’t fight me on it. She’d been privy to all the tears as well, and she knew I wasn’t happy. So, I hung up my pointe shoes. I got involved in drama, and the Scottish dance troupe at school, concert choir. There was still plenty of stuff out there to do.

Well, what had laid rather dormant for many years suddenly awoke last night. Why? Last night I saw Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker. I hadn't seen it since I danced it. I was overwhelmed with how much memory I had stored inside the music. The overture began, and I was suddenly 9 years old, backstage and waiting to enter for the party scene. Watching Clara dance made me smile so big, to remember the triumph that I felt when I got to dance that role. I remembered being a snowflake, and hating the itchy head piece with tinsel, but having so much fun with the other "flakes." I remembered dancing the Chinese dance and always sweating the pirouettes at the end. The Sugar Plum/Cavalier pas de deux, which I always dreamed of doing someday, was magnificent in its familiarity. So lovely, so breathtaking. I was so happy to sit in my seat and live it again. At the end of the evening I remember thinking…I love to sing, I love theater. But ballet was and is my first passion. I’m an enchanted little girl again for watching it.

Will there be dance studios in heaven for people like me?

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