May 16, 2019



I sat in the wooden auditorium chair, waiting for the dances to start, watching people stand up while other people scooted past them to fill empty seats.  I cleaned the fingerprints off my glasses with the hem of my dress and put them back on my face.

For someone who professes general disinterest in, if not disdain for, the creative arts, I'm intensely emotional during performances.  It's similar to the way I cry at the weddings of people I don't know, even ones in movies.

I had nine dances worth of The Feels behind me when The Kid, who is verbally open with us but also carries his dad's impassive, poker-faced presentation, started dancing to "Words Fail" from Dear Evan Hansen and showing passion on his face while he danced, and there was nothing but my already-tattered Kleenex to catch the streaming tears.  Then I stopped trying to catch them because there were too many.  Some tears were pride and some were more pride and some were watching and knowing his dance teacher can draw something out of him that I cannot.


I put my hand on his teacher's arm and stopped her in the hall, during intermission, even though I knew she had four thousand other things to rush off and do.  "He's not doing the moves right," I blurted out.  She wasn't sure what to say and looked at me, waiting.  "He's not doing the moves right any more.  He's dancing now," I said.


The dance program at the school is almost exclusively female.  There are four boys this semester; there were five last winter.  I watch the girls dance.  Some are heavy and most are confident and the cast is well-integrated racially.  They dance and I involuntarily begin counting the things I am good at, or want to believe I am good at, and I notice this and decide I'm doing it because I am no longer young and because I can't dance.

The girls are in costumes, every one the same.  They're dressed in same-ness.  I know that each is different, each is a waking fingerprint life, but I see them through a fly's eye.  I am not the hundreds of single myth-lie teenage girl I see in front of me, dancing.  I never became her.  I was too busy proving that I didn't have to.  I was too busy looking away.


I grumbled to myself as I walked about the contents of the mall shopping bag ... two dress shirts, a pair of pants, yet another belt for the dance performance ... he keeps growing ... right up the point where I stopped short because I couldn't walk through Sears.  I stood before the monolith of lowered gating and plywood boards and 'STORE CLOSED' signs, and I stared.  I walked closer and saw that teenagers had come by and traced words in the dust between the metal bars.  Some of them were too foul for even me.  I poked my index finger through and made a single fingerprint of regard in the dust, and turned and went downstairs.

I didn't take the escalator because it was making strange clicking sounds.  It's in disrepair.

At the bottom of the stairs, I was jarred again.  The play area where The Kid once crawled and climbed and laughed was empty.  It wasn't closed for business, but the same shiny plastic bed-and-pillow and over-sized banana slices and bunch-of-grapes slide now have patches of dirty black duct tape where holes were mended.  It was a Tuesday during lunch and the place should have been teeming with parents and strollers.  There were no little Velcro-strap shoes or inside-out socks in the cubbies.

Standing there and looking at taped-up fake fruit, it was the first time I've allowed myself to feel grief for his lost childhood.  If you ask me, I'll tell you that I don't miss those days in the least, that I finally get to sleep at night, sleep in on Saturdays, reason with the child.  Now I know that if you keep asking me, if you press me, if you break me, you'll hear all the stories from that play area at the mall.  They'll come gushing out.

That night, I told him the one about the dementors and the plastic sword from when he was two.  It was the moment I knew he was meant to be a lawyer.  And he remembered.

Time has moved on and I have seen the cruelty Time can visit upon a son.  That is why my heart catches in my chest when I see that Time has left The Kid dancing.

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