Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Favorite Gift

This month’s NaBloPoMo theme is gifts.   I’ve not yet discussed the topic and I’m in need of a bit of inspiration this evening so I am making use of today’s prompt.  Which is….

What was your favorite thing you received below the age of 10?

I lived in a small New England town until the age of nine, when we moved to an even smaller New England town. It was in that first town, when I was about six years old that I got the idea that I wanted to be a dancer.  I wasn't quite sure what kind of dancer, but I was pretty positive I would grow up to be either a ballerina or a Rockette.  So I started taking dance lessons.

My instructor’s name was Mrs. Richardson and she lived alone in a small house on a hill across town.  She had a fluffy white cat that was at least twice my age and she grew the sweetest cherry tomatoes I ever remember eating.  Her dance studio was small, even to my child sized eyes, but it was sunny and it had the requisite barre and walls lined with mirrors.  There was small record player and a piano. Dressed in our pink tights and black leotards we danced to the music of both.  She was forever telling me to stand up straighter and to quicken my tap steps. 

I remember her as thin, and light on her feet.   Watching her demonstrate ballet positions I thought she was the most graceful women and dancer I’d ever seen.  And when she showed us tap steps in her high heeled tap shoes I was sure she must have been sisters with Ginger Rogers.  I didn’t know much about her and so I invented a story in my mind about what might have brought her to this town where she taught us. I imagined she must have been a famous dancer who traveled the world until her career was brought to an end due to heartbreak or tragedy.  I’m not sure I actually knew what heartbreak or tragedy was then but they used those words a lot in the movies, and it sounded romantic.

I loved dancing, and though I may not have been the most attentive student (I had habit of moving as the music moved me, and not always in the steps she was trying to teach us), she was patient and seemed have a knack for bringing my attention back to where it needed to be.  I took lessons from her for three and a half years until my father took a job further north and it made sense to move closer to his work.  

On my last day of class, when the lesson was complete, she asked me to stay for just a moment.  I waited in the studio and soon she came in with a small box which she opened and tipped forward so I could see the contents.  I peered in and inside I saw the tiny delicate figure of a ballerina in arabesque that had, until now, been standing on top of the studio piano since I’d first started taking classes.

Mrs. Richardson removed her from the box and handed her to me.  The dancer was small, maybe six inches tall, and long limbed; she had dark hair and her costume was a burgundy velvet bodice with a black and cream lace tutu.  There was a wire stand attached to keep her upright and if it was positioned properly, she would appear to be balanced on the tip of one of her black toe shoes. She had hand painted rosy cheeks, red lips and a red flower perched over her left ear.  She was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen and I was in disbelief that my teacher was giving her to me.

“Stand up straight,” she said as she placed the miniature dancer into my hands, “remember to practice and keep dancing.”

She returned the dancer to the box, which she handed to me.  The she gave me a hug and I left.

I never saw Mrs. Richardson again after that, but I kept the doll for years, through several more moves and once across country and back again.  At some point a cat of mine chewed on her foot and my brother accidentally stepped on her making her head permanently crooked.  In the end she was finally lost to the waters of a flooded basement along with some beloved children’s books and several journals.

It’s been nearly 20 years since I last saw that tiny ballerina, and while she was beautiful and I remember her fondly, she isn’t the gift I am writing about.  The real gift that I was given that day was the words that Mrs. Richardson spoke to me, “Stand up straight, remember to practice, and keep dancing.”

I never did become a star ballerina (too tall) or a Rockette (tall enough but just never had the courage to really go for it) but, I continued to study dance. And though I gave up formal study for several years, I did continue to practice when I could.  If there was music I moved to it since, really, I’ve never been able to stop myself from doing so.  About six years ago I began to study a very different style of dance, belly dance.

So while I may not have been perfect in my practice, and yes even now my teachers still must remind me to stand up straight, I have never stopped dancing. 

Thank you Mrs. Richardson, for this gift given to a nine year old girl at about this time of year 30 years ago.  It was certainly never forgotten, and it will always be one of my favorites. 

1 comment:

  1. My sister used to dance, but gave it up. I'm glad you had an influential instructor.

    Thank you for sharing. I've nominated you with the Liebster Award: