Just before Christmas, our four-year-old daughter donned a green sequin costume with the rest of her ballet class and performed a dance routine for a packed auditorium of proud, swooning parents.

The day before we had rushed in late to the dress rehearsal from an afternoon of last-minute shopping, having forgotten Sam’s costume. When we arrived, all the green-sequined ballerinas in their pink canvas slippers were on stage as this flustered mother hustled Sam up the stairs, planting purple-corduroyed Sam in her hot pink Nikes among her fellow dancers.

So sorry and better late and without a costume than never and an understanding yes of course! followed in the ensuing exchange with Sam’s teachers, with me scrambling off stage as quickly as I had come, seeking to make the least disruption in the frenzied choreographic preparations now underway.

But by this time the damage had been done and I knew it: first, a trembling lip, then a whimper and finally a full-blown cry let loose from the girl in the purple corduroys. In no time a teacher had scooped her up, attempting dubious reassurances. It’s okay, Sam. I’m not in costume either, see?

There and then my daughter’s future flashed before my eyes: somewhere in her trove of memories to be exhausted on a couch with a shrink would be this moment, when her mother made her dance to a schmaltzy version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” as the only little girl in purple corduroys and hot pink Nikes.

So there and then I prayed for Sam and for me: Help, God. Please.

Sure enough, Sam made it through. And the next day, as she and twenty other little girls pranced and plied across a stage in the glare of the spotlight, there she was again–the outlier. This time the matching leotard and green sequins couldn’t disguise a little girl who had once again (this time unknowingly) broken rank. Off to the far right of center stage and twenty other dancers, but performing the same motions as the rest of the bunch, was a little girl oblivious to her solo act and a mother’s proud, affectionate giggles.

 

 

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