Certainly the most trivial of past episodes we forget, but then there are the memories where we can still feel the scrap of our knees hitting the pavement. As if its happening right now over and over again. This recurring feeling of de-ja-vu.
I’ve been here before.
Consequently, this is how I felt buying ballet tights for the second time for my daughter who had torn through the first pair with the ease and calmness of someone who doesn’t have to pay for them.
It didn’t matter that I had to drive to Montrose to get them, leave work early and sit in rush hour traffic for 45 minutes, I was buying the tights no matter what. The tights were specific in that they must be by a certain brand and they must be a certain shade of pink — theatrical pink, to be exact.
There was only one place that I could go. A little dancewear shop that used to be a house over one hundred years ago. I stood inside its small one time living room and I could hear the creak and crack of old wooden floors. I imagined the family that once lived there, upper-class, stiff collars, corsets and lace umbrellas.
What used to be a fireplace is now a holding spot for bejeweled ballet bags and in front of it a glass case with a cash register on top. A tall slender brown skinned woman stands behind the register who seemed to have been trying to get my attention for longer than she’d have liked.
“Ma’am, what can I help you with?”
” I need um —”
“Oh you’re the one who called!” Eyes rolled up toward the ceiling.
“Yes, the tights, umm, theatr–”
“Theatrical Pink, right, yes, yes.” She says.
Almost without looking does the lady pull the package of tights from behind the glass counter. The package is white and grey with a child model on the front.
The little prima ballerina is smiling with her hair up in a bun, arms over her head, feet in first position and her tutu is plush and white. She is perfect, the dream of all dance moms who strive and stress to get their daughters to class with perfectly glossed buns, clean leotards and tights without holes.
“Ma’am, did you want them?” She says exhaustingly.
I hadn’t noticed that I was lovingly stroking the edges of the package or that my eyes were entranced on the little ballerina. I wonder how long the woman had been saying ma’am or how long I’d been standing there.
“I’m sorry,” shaking my head. “It’s been a long day.”
While driving home, I recall my own first (and last) ballet recital.
I was eight years old and at the awkward stage of the arrival of body hair –hair under my arms and other confusing places, thick glasses and fuzzy never quite combed sandy brown hair.
My father has just gotten off work and his collar is open and his uniformed is stained. Riding in his pickup truck you can smell alcohol and stale cigarette smoke in the air. The tears are weighing down the bottom lids of my eyes and my mouth refuses to open. We are late. Well, I am late.
I am late to my very first ballet recital and I still don’t have tights. Mother is of no assistance and insists that I close her door with myself on the other side it.
As a result, my father ended up stopping at the nearest convenient store. When he comes back he hands me pantyhose.
Hot pink pantyhose.
Not theatrical pink ballet tights, but hooker hot pink pantyhose. The tears that were weighing down my lower lids have all but burst onto my cheeks like a levee breaking open and flooding my face and neck.
Yes, this was really happening.
Above all, my instructor Ms. Bunny (yes, this is her real name) is sweet, reassuring and I can feel her empathy for me. She looks back at the other girls who are uniformed and in line waiting to hit the stage and then she looks back at me, back to the girls and then back to me again. Ms. Bunny lets out a deep sigh and kneels down to my level and grabs my shoulders.
” It’ll be alright sweetie. No one will even notice. I promise.”
Her voice quivers as she says this and there’s a glossy glint of sweat that begins to shine at the top of her forehead and even at 8 years old I can tell she is worried, petrified even.
Due to my unforeseen wardrobe malfunctions, Ms. Bunny positions me in the back, the very last ballerina in line for obvious reasons. The other ballerinas wont look at me but snicker and giggle under their breathes.
While each of us place our hands on the girl’s hips in front of us and walk out onto the stage , I’m paralyzed with fear. I can’t seem to move once the music starts, so I don’t, I freeze. My eyes are fixed on my father and brother who are seated close enough to where I can see them clearly. My brother is chuckling and my father seems uneasy and anxious to get this whole mess over with.
I wonder now what he must’ve thought seeing me up there on the stage in hot pink hooker tights, hairy armpits, messy hair and thick glasses? I wonder if he felt the same shame I did? Was he embarrassed too?
Miss Bunny said no one would notice, but they did. Everyone did.
Most noteworthy was my lack of tears on the ride home. There was the kind of silence that can be so loud that you can barely move. I stared out at the night, watching the sleek wet street fly underneath us. My father tries his best to apologize.
“I just didn’t know what to get you pumpkin. I just didn’t know.”
“Its ok, Daddy.”
I say, feeling bad for him that he feels bad for me.
Seems like Mothers door is still closed when we come back. Didn’t she know the world had just ended? I remember staring at it as if it would open and out would come a woman and a little ballerina. The perfect ballerina, with the perfect bun, hairless arm pits and theatrical pink tights. This woman is proud of the little ballerina whom she spins around and kisses on her cheek.
Mother’s door never opens.
Finally arriving at the daycare, I am almost knocked down by my daughter at the door.
“Mommy! Mommy!” she says screeching and jumping with sticky blue candy residue all over her face.
” Hey Love Bug. How was your day?” I say, smiling, opening the car door.
” Where are we going Mommy? ”
“We’re going home baby. I have something for you.”
” What is it? Is it a LOL Surprise doll? Is it a Shopkin? ”
Reaching in my purse to pull out the tights, and to my shock and horror, I discover that they aren’t there! They must be here! Where are they? As I dig and dig, I am close to tears. Where are they? Where are they?!
As a result of my panic and despair, my face falls into my hands and onto the steering wheel, while my child is in the backseat, unbuckled, humming a “Kidz Bop” ditty to herself.
Planting a big sticky kiss to my cheek my daughter says, “Mommy, you bought new ballet tights? Thanks!”
She hands me the package of tights with the little prima ballerina on the front. I hold the package close to my chest in silence staring out the window.
“So whatcha get me Mommy? — Mommy? ”
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