I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions. Deciding to do something just because of the day of the week has never really made a whole lot of sense to me. But sometimes, the first of the year seems like the perfect time to make a change.
And in the next twelve months, I have a big change coming.
Scott knows what it is. But as of now, only a couple of other people do, and it would be stupid to announce it just yet. The blogging equivalent of posting nude pictures to Facebook. For one thing, it may not happen. And if I said “it’s coming”, then couldn’t pull it off? Yeah. For another, assuming it does work, I’m going to piss some people off. Not that this is anything new for me. Pissing people off is practically a second job some days. But I think I’ll wait to give them notice to be angry before I say anything less vague here.
But. Within the next year, there’s a major adjustment I need to make in my life. And it’s the kind of thing I’ll be positively tap dancing about over here. It has to do with the recent publication of Divorce: A Love Story by the very awesome people over at Throwaway Lines. (And it’s definitely not them I’m planning to make mad.)
Stay tuned for infrequent updates. I don’t set goals. Those are just invitations to failure for me. I either do things, or I don’t do them. And this is something I plan to do. It’s something I need to do. And I’m very goddamned resolved.
I’ve been grading on and off for I think the last twenty four hours. (Now forty eight) I slept somewhere in there (and now also visited with family awhile), so that can’t be right, but it feels like I’ve done nothing but SCHOOL on my computer since yesterday (now two days ago) afternoon. Mama needs a break. (I’ve now had to bounce back and forth a zillion times over two days).
So, I will tell you how I spent my time yesterday (two days ago) afternoon. As a family, we went down to Union Terminal, the place where Scott and I started our honeymoon, where Amtrak still has a station, and where three different museums now reside. After we had gone to see the holiday train display on the history side (more on that another time), I had to leave the kids with my husband and mother-in-law to fend off the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum and the plastic balls in the Cincinnati Children’s Museum so I could grade. Mostly, so I could download my work so I can grade offline, when my aircard is being persnickety.
I didn’t miss much in the Children’s Museum. Quite frankly, it bores me, and would have done when I was an actual child, as well. My kids love it, though, and I would have enjoyed the time to visit with my Mother-In-Law and spousal unit. And I definitely regretted having to pass on the Natural History Museum, where the coolest manmade cave on the planet thrills us all.
Instead, I cozied up to a table in the crowded lunchroom floor and spent two and a half hours downloading essays. (I have a hundred students right now, and about a third of them had something due on Christmas day. I extended all deadlines, but still, it means they technically were expected to work on Christmas and so was I.) While I was clicking and waiting and answering e-mails, I looked around at the vast museum atrium and pondered urban decay.
Because that’s what everybody thinks about at such times, right?
No, really, it came to mind because Union Terminal came so close to ending up a piece of elegant decay. Shaped like a giant old-time radio, it stood practically abandoned for years, and most of the glorious murals that once lined the whole building were removed and reconstructed at CVG airport. If not for the enormous risk taken by The Museums of History and Natural History to jointly move to the building, it would be no more than a glorious remnant.
Think about that a minute. Two separate museums co-located here. And there was room left over so they installed a third. And they still had more room, so they opened that up for a holiday display that used to be setup in a huge room in downtown Cincinnati. Though this section will only be open once a year, it will be stored there year round. Intact. Does that give you a sense of how sprawling Union Terminal really is?
I only took a few pictures with my cell phone (again, I’ll be revisiting this from another perspective), but here is one of the few murals that either remained or could be added.
It’s pretty amazing. Consider those relics you find in pictures by searching “Urban Decay”. Imagine how they used to look. And think about what must have gone wrong for those beautiful visions to collapse. Perhaps it was outrageous to begin with. Maybe it was incompatible with its owners’ economic stations.
I think of the David MacAulay book Motel of the Mysteries, in which a team of archaeologists (and one avid runner) in some future time unearth a motel and assign to its contents various religious significances. What would those future scientists make of the gorgeous ruins that dot our urban landscapes? How would they view our culture through the lens of things we abandoned?
And how would they interpret Union Terminal, which, through a little miracle, has not been abandoned, retains its grandeur, and shows vividly what a culture can do when it bares its soul?
She can make friends with anybody, on or off the autism spectrum, with no concerns for age, race, gender, or skill level. A trip to the zoo where she doesn’t either meet a new friend or bump into an old one is a tragic day indeed. She has a good sense of caution, and I’ve never felt like she was throwing herself into a dangerous situation with strangers, but she’s just so friendly that others find her irresistible.
We’re travelling today, and she’s gone and done it again. We walked into a restaurant and within five minutes, she had a new best friend. Where Caroline’s Asperger’s is hard to identify, even to parents with a child on the autism spectrum, her new friend was clearly somewhere on that spectrum. One eye wandered, the girl’s words were hard to understand, and she flapped madly. I suspect there was gross motor dyspraxia, as well, because she was uncomfortable climbing in the play area, even with help from Caroline.
She was as thrilled to meet Caroline as Caroline was to meet her. But where Caroline bombarded her with introductory information, the primary word this girl’s vocabulary was “Ayeeeek!” It’s a word Sam unfurls a lot when he’s headed for sensory overload. However, she used it in a very happy way. At a guess, I’d say this girl was six,or seven but that was largely because she had a brother in his early teens with the telltale fuzz of early adolescence above his lip, and I heard their mother chastising him “she’s half your age!”
I got the sense that this girl would like to be as friend-filled as Caroline, but the love she is obviously pouring out to the world may not always reach its intended targets. Her parents seemed eager for her to play with Caroline, even though Caroline had basically invited herself over to their table in the middle of their meal, and the little girl left her food unfinished (was permitted and encouraged to do so) to go off with my kids. Then, all three of them, Sam and the two girls, ran around the fishbowl that was the Chik-Fil-a play area, Sam and the new friend squealing while Caroline laughed.
And then Caroline headed up to the slide.
Immediately, the girl’s happy shrieks turned distressed. All the parents looked. So we all saw when Caroline came back down, took the girl’s hand and led her up. The girl’s mother covered her mouth with her hand really fast and looked away, and I knew Caroline had just pushed her friend to some new threshold. It wasn’t that long ago that proprioceptive distress kept Caroline from climbing up restaurant play areas. She has only been really comfortable up there for a couple of years, and I remember the patient months her therapists labored so she could understand where her own body was in space.
Caroline hasn’t forgotten that time in her life, and I think she must have used something from her own experience to convince her friend it was safe to go up. But I have no idea what, and Caroline can’t remember her exact words now, after the fact. I remember clearly that first time Caroline went willingly up those stairs herself, what my heart felt like when those months of therapy came suddenly to a head in McDonald’s. And I recognized myself in that other girl’s parents, just as Caroline recognized herself in their daughter. Although Caroline’s eyes have always gone where she wanted, and her pronunciation has always been strong, these girls clearly had a lot in common.
Because we are travelling, I had to make Caroline come out to eat for a few minutes, but I promised she could go back for a little while if she was quick. As soon as she was gone, the little girl’s father bolted into the playground, climbing up and down the stairs himself, up and down and up and down, his curious child behind him. She never went above the second step. This was clearly an early, early breakthrough. But she followed him over and over, until Caroline came back to play some more.
That alone would be enough. But it wasn’t all. A couple more kids went to the playzone, these girls probably neurotypical. They were willing and happy to bound up the stairs, dive down the slide, and then do it all again, Caroline and Sam shifted their attention. But Caroline did not abandon her first friend. She merely widened her net. Every time she headed up to go to the slide, she poked her head back out, inviting the girl along. And every time Caroline popped out the slide at the other end, the girl shouted “Boo!” and Caroline pretended to fall over with fright, but really laughing so hard that everybody picked up her giggle..
The girl’s father stayed in after Caroline came back, though he retreated to sit on the parent-benches. When he saw the new kids join them, he started trying to gently coax his daughter down, probably trying to end her playtime on a high note before the potential heartbreak of losing a new friend reached her.
But his daughter, entrenched on that second step, refused to move. She sat there, laughing, shrieking “Boo!” and waving at Caroline at every pass. And then the really cool thing happened. After Caroline went four fast rounds up the stairs and down the slide, she added a new component to the game. Everybody stopped on the second step. The new additions had been clearly initially uncomfortable with the first little girl. But when Caroline stopped and grabbed her hands at every pass, the others fell naturally in line, so that at every turn, there was a moment when all four girls (Sam having retreated into his own bizarre little games by then) held flapping hands and shrieked laughter. And it went on for some five minutes.
It was magic, the kind of spell that only Caroline can weave, and it only works because she appreciates no difference between the neurotypical kids and the austistic ones. Caroline knows she has Asperger’s syndrome. We talk about it. And she recognizes some of the differences it introduces to her life. But to her, in social terms, the girls are all different from her. She doesn’t rank the kinds of difference. She finds them all enjoyable and fascinating.
I imagine it this way. Caroline is standing on this bridge overlooking a distant valley. On one side of the bridge is her neurotypical world and on the other is her autistic one. She has equal access to both and only sometimes gets stuck on the autistic side anymore. The rest of us, those of us who really fully exist on only one side or the other of the bridge can all see Caroline up there, looking down into that valley. It’s impossible for us to tell what she sees, but all of us, on and off the autism spectrum, can tell that it’s fascinating. Whatever is going on up on that bridge, we’re interested in it because Caroline is. And so we come out to meet her there, and suddenly we meet each other, and because we are in Caroline’s world, it all makes perfect sense and is wonderful fun.
As I said at the outset, I don’t want to make Caroline into something she’s not. I don’t want to force her into a role. But all of this comes from her. I do not send her out to make friends. I am, in fact, often in the position of having to tell her, “Caroline, you’re with our family today. You need to make friends some other time.”
But I don’t want to stifle this gift either. I want to let her explore and enjoy it and marvel at the people she touches along the way. She may do this forever, or it may fade as she grows up. And if it’s that second thing, I don’t want her to have missed even one friend.
As they were leaving the restaurant, their smiling daughter flapping ahead of them, the child’s mother said, “You have a very sweet little girl,” to us. I couldn’t explain “She’s on the spectrum, too,” because that would show I presumed something about her child when she was so clearly not presuming anything about mine, just enjoying her for who she was. Instead I said, “So do you. I think they had fun together.”
And then we both looked away, because it was very, very hard not to cry.
I’m linking up here with The Lightning and The Lightning Bug’s prompt #33, Common Ground. The post was not written specifically for the prompt, but it matches it exactly without any stretching from me, for once.
Things got off to a rough start, because the shape of our house made it impossible to drag the beds in ahead of time, meaning we had to plan to deliver them as a middle-of-the-day-work-in-progress surprise. Only when we woke up, it was shiver in my bones pouring rain. Queue Ten Thousand Maniacs. Scott checked the radar, identified a brief hole when we could drag everything in from the shed, and as soon as the predicted letup began, we raced inside with a thousand parts.
I got these beds used off of Craig’s list. But the guy said they were practically unused, because he and his wife purchased them to make their kids room in their tiny army housing bedrooms, only to find out that their kids didn’t want them. Or rather, that their kids only slept in the bottom bunks that came with the units, while the top bunks were taking up badly needed space. So when he said ‘only used five times’, he meant it. The sticky tags were still in place, people. Melted there, from sitting in his shed for a couple of months, in fact.
I could have left them on until we could go get some Goo Gone, but they were bugging me, and they had to be removed.
Also, as we knew, they came with some assembly required.
We didn’t tell the kids what we were doing, listening as Caroline guessed “a place to put a TV in my room?”, “A really weird new desk”, and “my own hole like Ringo has in Yellow Submarine, only this one is square”. (She was referring to the space above the desk, which is something of a hollowed out rectangle until the bed gets into place.)
Although we had already told them that they each got one, as soon as they realized what was happening in Caroline’s room, that was the only place in the house they wanted to be. (Even before the side rails were in place.)
After we finished Sis’s, we moved on to Sam’s.
He walked into his bedroom once, turned around and left without a word, then told Caroline, “Go look what they are doing to my bed.” Naturally, when she checked, nothing seemed out of place to her, since we had just done the same thing in her room. Clearly, she’s dealing with this change better.
So while I did this,
Sam went away, found some scissors and gouged open a glass piggy-bank present one styrofoam bead at a time.
“I only wanted to paint it,” he said. Instead, he got to spend an hour cleaning up the mess before I’d even allow him a dustbuster.
After that, it was still another hour before he was allowed to touch a brush or googly eye.
After we finished building, Sam refused to come in. He said, “No thanks. We can just share Sis’s new flying bed.” However, and I have no idea why this worked, when we found out he was mad because he still had his old mattress (I had thought I might be able to give him Caroline’s boxspring and half mentioned it before realizing that doing so would put his mattress even with the rails instead of below them), I told him the history of every mattress in the house and he was mollified.
So his first foray up his own ladder came at bedtime, when I had been hoping he would climb up sooner. Still, he stayed with only a minimal of extra-hug-n-kiss demands.
In contrast, Caroline practically flew up that ladder. She couldn’t wait to bed down in her own personal flight center.
Overall, it appears the swap-out experiment was a success, Scott and I are drinking a bottle of celebratory Riesling now, as we clean up the disaster that is Christmas at our house. I notice that this bottle is about the same size as the one we had the night of the Polar Express disaster. We have been working on the same bottle for nearly six hours now and should finish up right at bedtime. That bottle at the hotel lasted only a third of that time. If that. And most of it went in me. *hic*. No wonder I fell asleep before I could post that evening. (I rarely drink and so have low alcohol tolerance to begin with. But I theeeenk that the phrase ‘really drunk’ has application in this situation)
Christmas has ended on a gentle note for us, and I hope for you as well.
I hope you enjoy the cookies. I hope the reindeer are doing whell [sic]. How are you doing? My name is Caroline Bradshaw Merriman. How is Mrs. Clas [sic] doing? How are the reindeer doing? Our house has a beautiful Chrismis tree Love Caroline
PS How is Rudolph Doing?
Dear Caroline and Sam,
Ho ho ho! I do believe this is my longest letter from a child. Keep writing. You are very good at it. Your cookies were lovely. I am taking the chocolate one home to Mrs. Claus. I’m sure she is doing well and will love it. Rudolph is doing well, and so are the other reindeer. They appreciated the carrots. Merry Christmas,
Yes, I did write the response. Because, although I wish it were written to someone else, someone real, even I find it endearing. And I am the creative writer in our family. And if I shield myself from shit like Norad Santa Tracker, those damned holiday specials, and too very many people who don’t respect my disdain for the season, even I can manage that much for my child, who has chosen to believe.
Peace to all who celebrate, gracious thanks for all who don’t, and ‘welcome to the club’ to all like me, trapped in between and floundering.
The mall at 8:30 Christmas eve morning was actually manageable. There were no red bears, but there were bear pjs and there was a spiderman suit he can use to turn a bear red with clothing. It will have to do. Publix, too, was still OK at this hour. But it was already getting crowded, and I was glad to get in and out when I did.
Anyway, I had on this shirt:
I turned around to grab some gum in the Publix line, and the Christmas Asshole behind me took my movement as license to converse. Trying to be polite, I turned around like I cared what she was saying.
She stopped whatever she had been proclaiming to demand, “Why would you wear a shirt like that at Christmas?”
Now, I had a lot of options for my answer, all of them true.
For example, I could have said, “Oh, my husband got me this,” and adopted a dismissive, airy tone, like I was saying oh those men, never can tell what they’ll come up with next.
Or I might have said, “Eh, I wasn’t really awake when I pulled this on.” This would have required an apologetic expression and tone, like I was sorry for having fucked up her stuck-in-line-chit-chat moment.
But I think we all know I didn’t choose one of those options. There’s only so much Christmas spirit to go around, you know. Instead, I looked down at the shirt and said, (opting for ‘indignation’ as the most enjoyable tone) “My husband got me this dumb thing, and as soon as I looked at it, I told him, “Honey, you know I’d never say something like that.”
The woman looked relieved until I pointed to the shirt’s first three words and added, “No. I would have said ‘Life Is SHIT’.”
And do you know that lady turned around and left. She gave up a short line and moved over to a long one. I resisted the urge to shout “Merry Fucking Christmas” after her. Because, you know, I’ve got to save my holiday spirit for others, too, you know.
It’s my birthday. We’re in the doctor’s office, and my kids, who will have to come back in the morning to be diagnosed with the flu, are acting like idiots in the exam room.
Sam melts down and has to be bodily removed, and outside, the cold air startles him enough that he stops screaming. But he doesn’t want to come with me, and the people in cars are already looking at me like I might be a kidnapper. So I put him down in the middle of the street (everyone can see him, and the parking lot is far from busy) and walk over to look at the fountain, which is lovely in the sunset. Eventually, Sam joins me. The water soothes him.
and I make sure they cut it off again at the lot.
See? Absolutely fresh.
Grandma B. and the kids have decorated the tree, carefully putting the salt dough ornaments a good foot over Fudge’s head. It’s to no avail. The first time we all go away, we come back to find a scattering of plastic balls on the floor and realize we’re down an angel. Possibly two. Fudge has also chomped on the plastic ones. Just to be sure.
It’s the first year I get to stay for the whole party and have both kids along. In just a few minutes, Sam and the four year old girl are going to go hide in the men’s room and tear up an entire roll of toilet paper to throw all over the floor. As we’re leaving, someone will give what remains on the roll to Scott for a gag gift, since it pretty much has to be eighty sixed anyway.
Sam is sitting in the office before therapy with an assortment of things he plans to surprise Dr. Cone with. In the background, behind the receptionist’s window, I can hear the therapist stifling laughter, getting it out of her system so that when she comes through the door, she presents Sam with the expression of delight he is hoping for. Well played Dr. Cone.
We’re at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, and Sam is on the zipline. Because I don’t have the good camera along, this is all we can see. But it isn’t that far off base.
Finally, the woman two ahead of me in line is wearing this indescribable dress. We’re at Sam’s club again, back at the pharmacy because both kids have gone into a post-flu sinus infection and cough that we’d rather not drag up to the relatives. I think it is African inspired (the dress, not the illness), with earth tones and a collection of patterns. Unfortunately, the material’s texture and its fringy edges serve to make it look like she just sewed together a bunch of furniture throws before coming to the store. I pretend I’m looking through pictures on my phone in line just so I can photograph her.
And that brings us up to now, two days before Christmas. Santa and I better get busy wrapping, or our little elves are going to be completely annoyed Christmas morning. Cheers until then.
You don’t just take an autistic kid’s furniture and move it around willy nilly. Although it’s far from universal, many kids with Asperger’s react very badly to change in general and to change in their surroundings in particular. The results are ugly, and I’m not talking feng shui.
It’s not going to be so bad for Caroline. Without telling her about her present, I’ve been gearing her up for change for a little over a month now. I told her, “You’ve got a lot of toys you don’t play with anymore, and I know you’ll get new stuff for Christmas. Let’s go through your old stuff and donate what you don’t enjoy any more.”
“Oh that’ s great!” she said, and launched into some explanation of loving and giving to others that she must have learned at school. (It finished with having the spirit of Christmas in your heart, so I know she did not learn it from me.) So she’s all revved up to start in on her closets Friday and her bedroom Saturday, getting things fixed up for the Big Holiday.
Sam, though, is another story. He’s the one who both needs and wants the new bed most, but he is also the one most resistant to change. He’s been accepting of my little donation speech in a vague way, but he does not understand what I’m talking about. In order to hope he can enjoy his gift unreservedly, I served up an early shock this afternoon.
Today, while we were building with his Legos, I said “Sam, you need more space in here.”
“Yeah,” he said. He did not look up, so I knew he was basically ignoring me.
“Would it be OK if we took your big dresser out of here? You don’t have anything important in it.”
He studied the ‘big dresser’ which was really somebody’s entertainment center once. Its bottom drawer is missing, so there’s this gaping hole in the bottom where we crammed stuff. It had stacks of garbage we hadn’t bothered to sort on top of it. And the drawers were full of outgrown clothes. “Sure,” he said, and went back to the Legos.
Within an hour, I’d emptied the thing and Scott and I rolled it out to the road with a minimum of cursing at one another (mostly on my part – Scott favors the silent glower). Sam was pretty impressed with the new cozy hole in-between-things that had just opened up. But he needed to go take his nap.
I said, “I’m going to need to move the other furniture around, too” and I gave him an outline of my plans.
He was pretty busy arguing about the nap, and I don’t think he really understood, but he agreed to the changes long before he gave in about going out for his afternoon sleepy-car-ride. (He won’t nap in his bed. Hasn’t for months. He is almost past the need for this nap, but not quite. So we drive him around until he crashes, then bring him home and dump him on the couch.) While he slept, Scott and I pushed pulled, emptied and moved. Still, we were only half finished by the time he woke up.
All the toys were piled up in the middle of the room, mostly on the train table. His bed was on a new wall, as were his bookcase and ‘little dresser’, the latter of which which was Scott’s in childhood. Even before he saw this, Sam woke up mean (he usually does). Scott wouldn’t let him have candy for an afternoon snack, and things got vicious. The vampire teeth came out, we hauled him off to his room for a time out, and he transmogrified suddenly from an enraged beast to a shocked trauma victim.
He kept spluttering at me, trying to speak, but the words just weren’t there. Finally, he screamed, “PUT MY BED BACK ON DAT WALL WHERE IT BEWONGS!”
“It’s pretty upsetting when somebody messes up your stuff, isn’t it?” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, dissolving into tears and letting me hold him.
After a couple of minutes, I showed him how he already had a lot more room. We cancelled the time out and let him come and go all evening. Finally, at bedtime, he told Scott, “I like my new room with more space. It sure took me some getting used to, though.”
Just you wait until Christmas, buddy. You haven’t seen getting used to until you find out what your Daddy and I have in mind then. Hopefully, the big shock was today, when I moved it all around and insulted your senses. And hopefully, the next ‘getting used to’ will be joyful instead of traumatic. And if not? Well, we won’t toss anything important out on the street until after we get back from our holiday travelling, OK?
I like Handel’s The Messaiah as performed by nearly any church, and I enjoy everything put out by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. If you promise me good singing, I’ll go with you to midnight mass, Christmas eve service, Hannukah Lights, Festivus, or anything else you might be celebrating.
Directly related to the love of carols, and really a derivative of it, I love The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky is a favorite composer anyway. If they had given out Grammy Awards in the 19th century, he would have clearly received one for “Best Use of Cannons in a Non-Murderous Role” for The 1812 Overture”. Nutcracker is special though, because Mom (who hated driving downtown for anything) took me to see the ballet the year I turned five. (She did not actually drive. Jenny’s Mom, Bug, was willing, so I also got to see the show with my best friend.) Vastly pregnant with my sister, Mom still waddled down with me to look into the orchestra pit at intermission.
At home, we had a four record set that we only set under needle with great care. My favorite music came from the tail end of the first act and the middle of the second act. I loved the Snow Fairy scene, with its eerie voices, the Chinese Dancers , and the Russian Dancers (Trépak). Because it was Christmas music, we only got it out once a year, and I treasured it.
Several years ago, when a little girl I used to babysit was a Ginger Girl in Cincinnati’s production, I drove up from Lexington to see her. More recently, Caroline started taking ballet. I initially didn’t realize that kids at The Montgomery Ballet’s school can try out for the city production of The Nutcracker. But last year, I learned. I presented the opportunity to Caroline tentatively. I didn’t want to either push or hold back something she might love.
I said, “Are you interested? You wouldn’t necessarily be cast just because…”
“You should try to enjoy the tryout for its own…”
And that was pretty much the end of the conversation. I took her to the studio at the appointed time, and to my surprise, she was cast. The ballet didn’t notify us. They assumed our elated children would come home and tell us about it. Caroline missed the first rehearsal because she hadn’t bothered to mention it at home, even though she was thrilled to be an angel. (They’re the opening scene of Act II, and not all ballets play it with angels.) (Note to Asperger’s Syndrome: Please quit fucking with me this way.) We had another round of the ‘are you interested’ conversation, it went about the same as the first, and she missed no further rehearsals.
I later learned that under a certain age, pretty much every kid who tries out gets a part, because this ballet company needs lots of children. Montgomery isn’t a big city with a lot of professional dancers to fill out the cast. The choreography always calls for copious numbers of small people as everything from party girls, to soldiers, to angels, to polichinelles (Ginger girls). (Caroline already has her heart set on being a poli next year. Though I think she’d be happy with angel every year for the rest of her life.)
She loved it. I loved it. There were two casts, Caroline came with me to watch the show one night when she didn’t perform, and then I watched it again every night when she did. All told, I saw The Nutcracker five times last year. Bliss.
However, due to disorganization and internal squabbling, I never got a picture of Caroline in costume. The angels had a pretty complicated little dance, and I would have liked something to commemorate it.
This year, the internal squabbling blew up into an outright rift, artistic director Elie Lazar left to go be a professor at Troy University, and, aside from the infighting, a couple of professional dancers moved on to new posts. The company had to scramble to get together some choreography and extra adult dancers to put on a Nutcracker at all. (It’s the ballet’s cash cow, really it’s only cash cow, so there was no question of its fate. Just a scramble to get it done.) In the end, there was only a one weekend run (it usually lasts for two weeks) with a single cast (not two casts like in years past).
Caroline was cast once more as an angel, and this year I got bold. Scott’s Mom came down to see her granddaughter in the production. (Naturally, we gave her the flu. Sorry Betty.) Scott ushered for two shows, I ushered for two shows (we overlapped when Betty watched Sam so Scott and I could see Caroline together for a performance), and for the final show, I volunteered to work downstairs with the kids, hauling along my oh so forbidden camera like a jet-pack on my hip.
So, not only did I get the joy of watching my little girl dance in my own favorite ballet, I got the bloody evidence.
And now, as a final note, I will leave you with this image. A ballerina should never wear panties beneath her tights. The lines are visible to the audience. Caroline doesn’t. Many of the other kids do, because they freak out at the thought of going commando, even in layers. Ballerinas’ modesty is protected by their leotards. But when you see a danseur up there on stage, please consider that those thin little costumes that don’t leave much to the imagination are leaving even fewer empty spaces for you to fill in than you might have previously considered.
That is all.