After starting Lil’ K.’s ballet recital day trying to rescue her ballet shoes from the jaws of our crackhead dog in time for the morning dress rehearsal, the actual performance couldn’t possibly be more interesting. When it was time for me to prep us for the actual recital that night, I had everything orchestrated and organized perfectly. I packed Mr. Jenn a manly-looking baby bag with snacks, toys, and books to help him successfully wrangle Lil’ P. for the two-hour show. I had the ballet bag stocked with snacks, sippie cups, toys, extra water, hair crap, extra tights, combs, brushes, Advil, Diet Coke, a hot glue gun, and tampons for me, even though none of that was scheduled to happen for another three weeks. Volcanoes could erupt, earthquakes could rattle the stage, but I had a bug-out bag worthy of my own bit on Doomsday Preppers.
Upon arrival, another Ballet Mom and I collected our fifteen three- and four-year old charges and herded them all to their seats. Other parents had to sit elsewhere in the already packed auditorium. A close friend of mine was sitting with her daughter’s class in the row behind ours. Once seated, we had about ten minutes or so until the show began.
Mrs. B., the dance teacher for all 125 ballerinas present for this momentous event, checked to make sure we had accounted for all the dancers in our class. Mrs. B. is probably on her third generation of students. She taught all my cousins and me when I was Lil’ K.’s age. She is currently in her 70’s and still pulls on her ballet slippers four nights per week to teach and choreograph our little dancers. Don’t get me wrong—this is not the New York City Ballet by any stretch, but it takes a hell of a woman to single-handedly wrangle 15 preschoolers into a line to teach them to point their toes and twirl. Mrs. B. only allows parents to watch practices once in the fall, and at the rehearsal in the spring. The fall practice was a bit of a cluster. Little girls were running everywhere, hiding behind the stage curtains, and generally swinging from the rafters of the school auditorium where they practice. Yet somehow, she had gained control and had them ready and eager to perform. Could we keep them under control for ten minutes? Not likely.
Within the first minute, one tried to escape.
“I’m going to find my mommy, now,” she told me with a devilish gleam in her eyes.
“Oh, no, Mommy wants to watch you dance,” I said. “Hang with Miss Jenn for a few minutes so Mommy can see what an awesome little dancer you are.”
“NO! I’m going to find my mommy,” she said again, grinning as she attempted to crawl between my legs. I snapped them shut just in time.
“No, you’re going to sit with me,” I said, blocking her into a corner seat. I noticed that my friend, who had been sitting with her daughter’s class right behind me, had disappeared. I could have used her moral support as the other mom for our class was texting at the opposite end of the row. I counted ten of our little girls bouncing the auditorium seats up and down. One had climbed on top of the chair back, and I caught her before she attempted to crowd surf on the ballerinas behind us.
Just as I snatched up another kid trying to slink away to her mama, my friend came charging back down the aisle.
“Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh,” she cried. “Some guy just threw up down my back.”
“WAH?” I raised my eyebrows up into my hairline. “HUH?”
“He was trying to push past someone bringing a double stroller in and couldn’t make it to the bathroom. He got me and two other people,” she explained.
“WTF?????” I asked. “Was he drunk?”
“I don’t know, but my mom helped me strip down and wipe off in the bathroom. I used that handwash stuff and paper towels to clean my dress and myself. Thank God my mom was here!” she sighed, her face the color of the cinder block wall.
“I am sending you a mental shower,” I told her.
“I am standing under its warm water running straight Clorox on myself,” she answered. “Only here, right?”
I want to believe the dude had the stomach flu, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t. Only in this Podunk village of ours would someone show up drunk to a ballet recital and puke on the Dance Moms. I love my home.
Just then, the lights dimmed on the vomit and all the wriggling children. The first adorable class of three-years-olds sashayed across the stage, and I heard a crescendoing wail from one of my charges. I reached for her and began to pat her back.
“I want my mommy!”she sobbed. I had no clue where her mommy was .
“Mommy can see you, and she’s so excited about watching you dance!” I whispered, picking her up and putting her on my lap. “Let’s watch these dancers together. Aren’t they great?”
“I. WANT. MY. MOMMY!!!!!!!!” she screamed as I bounced, patted, and talked. I pulled toys out of the Bug-Out-Ballet Bag for her, and she threw them back.
The screaming lasted throughout the next act, and no one came to claim her. I continued bouncing, and I noticed eye-make-up rolling down her face. I tried to mop it up with one of the baby wipes I had in the Bug-Out-Ballet Bag.
“Mommy, why is she crying?” asked Lil’ K., looking concerned. I hoped she and the rest of my crew wouldn’t turn into sympathy criers.
My friend sighed behind me. “I wish I had some ideas! They’ve been covered up with barf.”
I snickered, and so did she. The kid continued to wail at the top of her lungs. In her defense, the whole concept of the evening was terrifying. Imagine being three—your mom has to drop you off with strangers, the lights go out, AND you have to get up in front of an auditorium full of people and twirl. Still, what the hell was I supposed to do?
I finally picked her up, put her on my shoulders and let her wail, hoping someone in the throngs of people would claim her.
Echoes of wails rang out, and I led her out of the auditorium when her screams began to drown out the music. Thankfully, her mother claimed her in the hall.
I returned to my group to find that I was a class behind in getting the girls to the stage. My other mother stopped texting and helped me herd them backstage. The crying child sat with her mother and continued wailing.
I hugged Lil’ K. before she went on. As she skipped out on the stage with her class, she turned to wave at me. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I watched her leave. This would be the first of many goodbye waves as she embraced independence and left me to watch her shine. She performed brilliantly–twirling, and arabesque-ing with all the perfection a typical four-year-old can muster. At the end, she blew the audience an enormous kiss with both hands (not part of the choreography), bowed with flourish, and left the stage before the others.
She leaped in my arms, and said, “Why do you have black stuff running down your face like that little girl?”
“Just sweating a little,” I told her. “You were amazing.”
“Can we do ballet again next year?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I told her.