Fix You

Sam Part I,

Sam Part II,

Beauty and the Beast

Sam Part III

Sam Part IV


Chris Martin’s voice permeated the studio, singing a lullaby straight to my son. “I will try to fix you. Lights will guide you home.”  Sam’s part hadn’t even started yet, but I was already dabbing my cheeks.

The danseur playing the lieutenant general sat to one side in a chair. His ballerina wife threw herself forward in grief. And then the youth ballet corps rose up and pantomimed flying, flashlights aloft, bringing an imaginary man home to a family he didn’t know.

For three minutes, Sam and Piper, playing the lieutenant general’s children, waited on either side of the floor. And then they darted to center stage together in response to a cue I couldn’t see.  It wasn’t the dress rehearsal yet, but the children and youth corps were costumed. Sam never looked my way. He watched the danseur, Vlad, the ballerina, Nichole,  and his stage sister, Piper, as if they were already in the final performance.

As Sam ran in character, I superimposed the image of his red face dashing across the Baptist Hospital parking lot.

By the time he jumped out of my moving car two days after his fifth birthday, we had been trying to fix Sam for most of his life. The little kid who arched out of my reach and lurched into traffic looked exactly the same as this dancing boy, but that child had a broken soul.

He had been to three preschools and one daycare. We took him out of the daycare before they had to expel him for biting. The first preschool collapsed under its own weight. Then we removed him from a second by mutual consent with the directress, because he was simply out of control. And the third kept him on sufferance,  possibly out of pity, or maybe because even at his worst, he had a charming smile.

Only the ballet school never failed him. Every class, no matter his attitude, Miss Kyana welcomed Sam. She nurtured his bright spark when others couldn’t see through his clouds. Five months after his psychiatrist prescribed the first mood stabilizer, the healing showed everywhere, most especially as he danced.

The music ended, and the director, Mr. Darren, said, “That was really good. I want to run through a couple of things with the little ones, and I’ll see the rest of you tomorrow at the dress rehearsal. If you have questions, make sure you get them answered today before you go home.”

The older girls departed, leaving a couple of the professional dancers and the youngest children. Mr. Darren turned to the little stage family. “OK Mr. Sam, now you pull off a smart salute. Keep your wrist straight. Just like that.” Sam stood at ramrod attention as Vlad lifted him high overhead. The ballet director smiled. “Good job!”

“Mr. Darren,” said Sam. “I tried to practice at home, but Daddy can’t pick me up like that.”

Mr. Darren smothered laughter in his shirt. “Well, Sam,” he said in his soft Australian accent, “Your Daddy doesn’t spend his whole day hefting things.”

Miss Kyana added, “These guys are picking us ballerinas up all day long. I feel sorry for them.”

“I’ll pick you up!” Sam immediately tried to hoist his favorite teacher by the legs.

“You’re going to have to work out a little while before you can do that,” said Vlad. “Lift weights all day like me.”

I wiped my face on my sleeve.  “Come on, bud. We need to get sis.”

“I want to stay in rehearsal all afternoon!”  But he walked with me to the car.  I felt the dancers watching him all the way out.  Later, after I tucked both kids in bed, I started listening to Coldplay, trying to immunize myself against a song I never used to enjoy.


About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Fix You — 29 Comments

  1. It’s beautiful to see Sam in a welcoming and nurturing environment where everyone recognise his talents and qualities. We may not need fixing, just acceptance of the way we are. 🙂
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    • I think Sam needed a little of both, and we’ve been so lucky with the ballet. This year, in Kindergarten, he finally has a school that gets him, too.

      • This is so great!! Glad to hear ballet resonated so well with him…stick with the dance and the arts and the moving! There are so many benefits to all of these things! My partner had a rough time all through school, but many years later he is a brilliant talented artist; happy and working in his field – largely thanks to supportive parents 🙂 Heart warming post :)! thank you!

  2. It can be so difficult for our kids to find their niche, no matter what their situation. I am so happy Sam found his.

    I teared up while reading this but ended up laughing when you had to “immunize” yourself against Coldplay.
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  3. I teach tap dance and one of my students is idiosyncratic, to say the least. I haven’t discussed anything in particular with her mother, but I know that she needs a different attention than the rest of my students. I absolutely adore her, though, because she loves dancing. One day her mother approached me with tears in her eyes, saying, “She looks forward to this all week. She’d spend the entire day here with you if she could.”

    I am so glad that Sam is finding his way, and extra glad that he’s finding it through dance…
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    • You’re probably the only teacher who doesn’t judge her, who includes her in activities instead of excluding her on rough days, and who smiles when she comes in the room. That’s all Sam has ever needed. That he’s doing something he loves is a bonus. This year, school is much better, but that’s a different post.

  4. I danced all through my childhood, adolescent and teen years. It was my way of “getting it all out”. I always felt like I was too full and uncomfortably overstuffed with emotion, anxiety, other things indescribable and dancing was my way of releasing some of it so that each day would be more tolerable. It helped me immensely. I’m so glad Sam finds joy and peace through dance. I still have the urge when I feel overwhelmed but I suck now so I try to control myself. Happy for Sam.
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    • I think Sam has the same experience. It’s a world where nobody tells him to use his words, and he can be as physically demonstrative as he wants.

    • I hated it. Hated it. Until I saw it in the ballet. I’ve been known to do that -change my response to a song based on the context in which I hear it. But this one was an instant “holy shit 180” response. And now I’ve played it enough that I will at least make it until the dancers start to move before I tear up.

  5. I know a similar story where the young girl found peace through gymnastics. I’m very glad your Sam discovered something he loves. He’ll be a troupe member with Dancing with the Stars before you know it!
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    • Or, who knows, he may move away from dance altogether. For me, the important thing is that he loves it now and it has absolutely saved him in ways nothing else could.

  6. beautiful story and although I don’t think i could ever like a coldplay tune, I understand that moment when you let your guard down in honor of your kids or a weak, special moment.
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    • That’s exactly what it is. I still recognize the cheesy synth intro for what it is, acknowledge the utter idiocy of the lyrics for their lunacy But it’s so perfectly apt for Sam, and the choreography is incredible.

    • Yes, and it’s not something Caroline struggled with. She’s so sweet and malleable that she belongs to a place as soon as she enters it. She smiles and makes the room her own. Sam, though, has had so many behavior issues, some probably related to his Asperger’s syndrome, but others probably stemming from his being descended from a long line of bipolar people on my side (including me), that he’s struggled in every school until this year, and he has lost so much that he loves. It’s beautiful to see him get to hold onto this one thing so tightly.

  7. God, I loved that. Your little guy is so lucky to have these folks in his life.

    Now I know why so many people want the neat bows, the tidy ‘endings’. It doesn’t just feel good, it leaves a little hope. Maybe I should try harder to write a few of those, even though I haven’t lived many.
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    • When I do have a neat bow, it isn’t always happy. I mean, at one point in May, I left the audience with Sam having jumped out of my car, and about the closest I could come to hope was that maybe the new drug would work. I focused on chocolate chip cookies and the kindness of neighbors in that one, because it would have been just negativity tripled if I hadn’t.

      But I have never felt the need for a neat bow in your writing. You are telling some pretty goddamned stark truths, and you’re writing things that many of your readers will never live. I enjoy your voice because of the way your nonfiction never ever presents itself as self pity, and while it evokes sympathy from the audience, it never asks for pity, in fact suggests that pity would be offensive.

      Your fiction describes characters and circumstances that have real presence. I love to read about them. I look forward to the Entanglement installments. The way you weave Aliss into and out of romances and allow her to have flaws is awesome. I have a LOT of trouble with ‘perfect’ narrators who don’t screw anything up ever.

      Anyway, my point is that I don’t think you need to change a thing. You’re a good writer.

  8. Oh, what a heartwarming story. You expressed so well your joy at seeing him enbraced by dance. So sweet.
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  9. I love this story and need a good cry after reading it. Thank God/universe/whatever that there are people in this world who get it and can nurture our children the way they deserve. Heartwarming, rich with detail and filled with mama love – my heart grew two sizes just reading it ;-).
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  10. I remember those posts you mention. I really liked the way you handled them. I may not have said it, but one reason why I feel so little negativity when reading what you write about those parts of your life, is that I’ve seen so many people treat children like they’re supposed to know everything already and have the perfect control their caregivers lack. I must be wired to notice such things, and I feel sick every time. Even though your ‘neat bows’ aren’t always happy, or truly ‘neat’, your understanding is beautiful.

    The kindness of your words about my writing caught me off guard and soothed me as I scrambled to add a little me time to the back end of a hectic week, without sacrificing sleep. I did lose the sleep and I need to crawl back under the covers soon, but the resultant writing feels worth it, especially in light of your encouraging words. Thanks more than you could know.

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