I reach in my closet and get the costume. I don’t know why I have butterflies in my stomach, it’s my nine-year-old daughter who will be preforming, not me.
For a minute I panic as I reach up and can’t find the package I left up in the outer reaches of my closet.
Oh, thank God, here it is.
Check the time. 11:45. OK. I’ll get her in the shower and she can have lunch, get dressed, and then run to the rehearsal. I want to get their early so Lizzy and I can relax before it gets crazy with all the other classes getting ready to go over their routines.
12:15. We’re still on schedule.
“Lizzy, come on. Let’s get our costume on.”
I look over at my twelve and six year old.
“Peter and Tom, please make sure you are ready. I do not want to be late.”
“Oh, mommy! This is so pretty and sparkly.” I love this little girl so much.
She looks so much more grown up than the little girl who wore a white sequined tutu four years ago.
Lizzy poses in the mirror. Hand on hip, the other arm extend up. She definitely has inherited my ham gene.
“I look beautiful.”
“You do Lizzy. You look like a princess.”
Tom comes in and sees her posing in front of the mirror.
“Lizzy you look so pretty. You are going to do such a good job.”
“Thank you Tom.” She is so lucky to have an older brother who adores her.
“Lizzy! Look at you! You look so pretty!” Joe beams at his daughter and grabs my hand.
He is the one person who knows how important it is for me to see our daughter preform in a dance recital just like any other little girl.
We make the made dash to the car.
I do my best drill sargent impersonation: Move it, move it. Come on everybody I do not want to be late.
“I want to see my grandma and grandpa.”
“Yes Peter, they are meeting us there. Come on, lets go, moveyour tushy!”
It’s hard for me to be annoyed with my baby when he flashes his winning smile. My hard mommy reserve cracks under his charms.
We get to the school where the recital will be at 1:00 p.m. Perfect.
“Kathy, you and Lizzy get out here, we will meet you inside. OK Missy Liz, have fun. We will see you in there with Mommy.” “Do you have her dance bag?”
Of course I have her dance bag. I’m a mother.
“Got it. Come on Lizzy. Say goodbye to the boys.”
Lizzy and I are both excited to see all the other girls dressed up in their costumes. Ballerinas… Cowgirls… Hip hop girls…Where are the girls from our group? I look around, and we are the only ones here. I hope I didn’t mess up the time. We were supposed to be at the second rehearsal, right?
Big sigh of relief as I see the other girls from her class arrive.
I love the sense of community and excitement. Even though we don’t see each other often, we all know each others’ stories, and have watched our children grow and change. It is one of those strange treasures of belonging to the “special needs community.”
There is an unspoken understanding, and we huddle around each other, as the other dancers–typical little girls who don’t have to struggle for every milestone–walk around us. We do our best to ignore the stares. Their is safety in numbers.
I look around and can’t believe how big the girls have all gotten. The special needs class has changed a bit through the years, but the core group of six has been together for four years.
Miss Maria comes over and gives each girl a huge hug and kiss. The pride she has in “her” girls is obvious to anyone within a mile radius.
I look at her and wonder how I ever will be able to adequately thank her for giving Lizzy the chance to dance and be like any other child.
Maria is definitely one of the angels in our life. I marvel at her ability to combine her love for dance with her profession of teaching special needs children. She has the patience of a saint. She has given my daughter the chance to express herself and always treats her with such respect and love. Whenever I feel sorry for myself or Lizzy, I need only think of people like Maria to realize just how blessed we are.
Time for the girls to line up. Lizzy doesn’t need me to “babysit” her backstage as I once did. Nervously, I give her a kiss and walk to the auditorium with the other parents. I see Joe, the boys and my parents. My mother is already crying, and Lizzy isn’t even on the stage yet.
“How is Lizzy doing? Do you think it is a good idea to leave her alone backstage? Who is back there with her?”
These questions don’t come from my husband or parents, but from Tom. I swear he is more protective of her then all of us combined, and that is saying a lot.
I glance over at Peter, who has two tissues stuck in his ears. I look up at my mom and she just smiles and shakes her head.
The girls come on the stage, and my heart is now in my mouth. It is beating so loud, I could swear everyone can hear it.
Lizzy’s smile lights up the stage. She is dancing so well, only forgetting a few steps, and I only know that because we have been going over the routine for months.
She looks so happy. I feel the tears stream down my face and I could just bust from pride. I look up and there is Joe with the same huge smile on his face. Tom and my parents are beaming, even Peter, tissues still sticking out of his ears, is smiling.
The dance ends, the audience roars with applause, and I am so excited that I get to do the whole thing over next week. I run and give my dancer a huge hug, feeling like the luckiest mom in the world.