A ballerina and no brain

On Friday, July 31, the Commander Supreme and I were heading to Cary, North Carolina. The parents of a ballerina had invited us.

We met our departure time. I drove to the North Carolina Welcome Center on I-85, and then the Commander took over. There was lots of traffic for a Friday morning.

Being a native of North Carolina, I am still partial to the Belks department store chain. A long time ago, there was a Belks at Willow Lawn in Richmond, but not anymore.

So, we made a stop at the Belks store at Southpoint Mall. With our masks on, we entered, and were promptly greeted by kind personnel. Thanks to some deep discounts offered by the stressed COVID-19 retailer, we made a few purchases.

Now, we were headed to Cary, and thankfully, the GPS directed us. For some reason, I lose all sense of direction in this part of North Carolina.

We arrive safely at the home of our oldest daughter, Lauren, and her husband, Doug. The ballerina, Caroline, is playing quietly. Her brother, Hudson, is still napping. And for a few minutes that’s what I decide to do.

I’m not down too long, and my pal, Hudson, is coming for me. For the next two hours, we play nonstop. We toss balls, roll balls, race tiny vehicles, put puzzles together, putt plastic golf balls, act silly, and sometimes chase Caroline.

Eventually, I make it upstairs to the playroom. It is a disaster zone, but a good one. Toys are everywhere. I am given a tour that often includes commentary.

But when I take a seat on the couch, Dr. Caroline, and her physician’s assistant, Dr. Hudson, take over. 

It is a very thorough exam, blood pressure, temperature, ears, heart, bandaids, and a shot. Yes, Dr. Hudson took great pleasure in giving me not one, but several shots. And he giggled with delight when I cringed and pretended to cry.

But, the most startling news came from Dr. Caroline. Her exam had concluded that I do not have a brain. I accepted her diagnosis, and told Dr. Caroline this would confirm what her Nahna had known for years.

Then there was a great scurry to get ready for the recital. The pursuit of perfection took over as Lauren, the Commander, and our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, started running through their checklist. 

We made it out the door in plenty of time. We were driving along when the Commander thought out loud— I wonder if Lauren has Doug’s camera. Doug was meeting us at the dance studio.

A call was made to the car ahead of us, and of course, the camera had been forgotten.

Now, the urgent scramble started:  turn around, grab the camera, and make it to the dance studio on time. Somehow, we made it with an assist from the traffic light gods.

The dance instructors had done a nice job of communicating to the families of the dancers. 

We all wore our masks, getting into the building was carefully choreographed and timed out. Each room we entered had a purpose, and kid friendly backdrops had been staged for professional and family photos.

Our little ballerina seemed fine at each stage. Her performance would be solo without any of the other students from her class.

For whatever reason, when it was her time to perform her routine and charm her family audience—she wasn’t buying it.

Despite lots of kindhearted coaxing, our ballerina held fast to her decision. Her uncharacteristic balk left the adults puzzled. Maybe Hudson sensed this too as he initiated a micro melt down during the negotiating with our ballerina.

In the end, the  caring adults gave up, and eventually, thank you and best wishes were communicated, and we headed for home.

Much like a loss after an athletic event, the post-ballerina analysis started to unfold. 

Post-game analysis dissect a defeat from lots of perspectives. Everyone is trying to figure out why. 

Sometimes fingers of blame are pointed. And in certain situations, we might even make God the scapegoat. After all, both teams usually pray and ask God to lead them to victory. 

Maybe a fan’s analysis might go like this: “I guess God didn’t want my team to win today. I can’t wait to get to that communion rail on Sunday morning. I’m going to give God an earful.”

Being God must be tough work.

 Being a parent is tough, tough, tough work. The learning curve with each child is different. Children push parent brains into overtime and overdrive. 

No wonder Dr. Caroline stated I have no brain. After being a part of raising three children, I’m pretty sure what was left of mine is gone.

When I was a very chubby kid in elementary school, my parents made me, that’s right they made me, be in the children’s choir at Davis Street Methodist Church. 

I loved the practices and rehearsals. But, I never sang a note in live performances. I was too busy crying. I could not handle being in front of people.

To my parents credit, they never backed off. They just gently kept prodding. Today, whenever I am in front of a group of people, I’m still a bundle of nerves, but I know I can get through what I have been asked to do.

In the years that lie ahead of us, and when we reflect about 2020, we all know COVID-19 is going to bear lots and lots of blame for everything that went wrong that year. And, I think that is fair, because COVID-19 in all of its meanness also disrupted routines—even for ballerinas.

Even though I barely remember them now, Caroline’s mother had some balky moments when she was growing up too. We all did.

And in those early formative years, if a person had told me—you know your daughter, Lauren, is going to do a summer internship in the inner city of Los Angeles during college— I would have laughed at the person. But Lauren did, and she would probably tell you that internship was a highlight in her life.

I hope someday in the future long after I’m gone, Lauren, Doug, Caroline, Hudson, and their Aunt Elizabeth will be sharing family stories.

Someone will say—do you remember the COVID-19 dance recital?

My guess is their eyes will catch each other with a quick glance, and then in the next second they will all burst into laughter.

Yes, learning curves with each child will be different. Parent brains will be challenged. 

But at the end of the day in a quiet moment, if a parent can reflect back and chuckle just a smidgeon, then that parent has a chance at surviving.

Plaza outside public library in Cary, North Carolina photo by Bill Pike

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