|The Karate Kid, Rocky, a butterfly, a snow princess, |
and a moody teenager doing his homework on the stoop.
Something melodramatic by Trans-Siberian Orchestra filtered through the speakers as Esther-Faith crawled to the playroom. She hadn't finished her white hot chocolate. She didn't even eat any of the candy she collected from the neighbors. Tim watched as she gingerly crawled to the middle of the floor, put her feet underneath of her body, and slowly stood up. It took many tries. But without the assistance of any of her equipment, she stood up.
And then, she just stood there, watching her reflection in the sliding glass door. Her cousins and brothers ran around her playing, laughing, and enjoying the chaos of the night. But she just stood. Occasionally she lost her balance. She would teeter forward or back. Sometimes falling all the way to the ground with a thud. But she always got herself back up to standing.
And then, ever so slowly, she moved her arms to first position. Holding them still in front of her body, she waited for her balance to catch up. Then, gracefully, she stretched her arms out to second position. Tim stood next to me in the dining area. Two of the three boys had heaped more sweet and sour noodles into their bowls. Auri was taking more sips of her hot chocolate.
Watching her own movement in the reflection of the glass, she slowly and gracefully set her arms into third position. Then fourth. And finally, fifth. Just before losing her balance and crashing to the floor again.
Unaware that we were watching, in an awkward gentle motion, she put her feet back under her body. Willing her orthotics to do what she wanted them to do. She slowly and comically got to standing again.
Already brimming with emotion of tough choices and hard decisions, I grabbed my sister's arm and started to cry. Tim grabbed the camera and moved into the play room determined to capture her remarkable tenacity on film.
She moved slowly but fluidly through the arm positions of the five basic ballet positions again and again. Tim knelt in front of her encouraging her when she fell or helping her focus when her balance threatened to interrupt her practice.
Esther-Faith will start real ballet in January. Actually, all three will start ballet in January. I've been searching for a few months for an dance studio that will teach my daughter ballet without putting her into a "pity" class or just appeasing my request in the name of compliance. I want her to learn how to dance. For real. Because SHE wants to learn how to dance. For real.
So, I contacted a few dance studios. Dozens maybe. I heard "no" a lot. I heard "we've got a wheelchair class" a lot. I heard "have you tried such-and-such" a lot. And I got tired of explaining that I wanted her in a class with other children learning ballet. That I wanted her to work. That SHE wanted to work. That she loves to dance, and I want to give her the opportunity to learn to dance.
Eventually, I found a well-established studio with an adaptive specialist who would be available to help Esther-Faith learn to the best of her ability. They never offered a different class. They didn't tell me "no." And most importantly, they understood that Esther-Faith wants to be a ballerina, but that it might just look a little different.
They are excited to have her. She is excited to go.
When we talked about Esther-Faith taking "real" ballet classes, Isaac decided that he would also like to take ballet in addition to more tap. And then Isaiah, the teenager, said he wanted to take ballet, too. So in January, all three of my children will begin ballet. At three different stages in their lives, and for three different reasons.
But really, Esther-Faith's education has already commenced. She has started memorizing the vocabulary. Pas de bourrée. Pirouette. Pas de chat. She often convinces her dad to lift her into the air. She gets books about ballet from the library.
And she practices.
It is more difficult for her. More strenuous. More work. But I think, also more beautiful. Because I know what it takes for her to even stand at all, let alone stand in position. I know what it takes for her to move her body a certain way, let alone do it gracefully. I know what work it is for her to just try.
Eventually, I moved to the play room, too. And so did Auri. The girls moved through the positions together. Auri grabbing Esther-Faith's hand at one point to keep her from falling. Convincing Daddy/Uncle Tim to set down the camera and lift them both into the air.
As they danced, I moved slightly away. The music was loud. They were moving their bodies. Dancing. Playing. Enjoying the evening and each other. And she did it again. After months of not, she took three tiny steps into my arms.
Those positions. Those smiles. Those steps. They make my heart so happy. So full of joy. So full of hope. She may never play Clara or Cinderella or Odette. But she will dance.
And it will be amazing.