If you read my most recent post, Back in Business, then you know my life has been a little nutty these last few weeks. For the most part I managed to keep it together. With one exception. Olivia’s dance recital. It totally pushed me over the edge.
A few weeks before the recital, I received an email from the owner of the dance school asking for volunteers. Each class section needed two mothers to chaperone the girls before and after they performed. I hit delete and pretended I didn’t see it.
And then I got another email saying, “There are still positions open.” I paused for a moment and considered it, but then hit delete.
And then I got an email saying that our specific class had NO volunteers. Damn it. I left the message in my inbox.
And then an email came saying that the eleven four-year-olds in Olivia’s class would be unsupervised in the gymnasium for the entire length of the recital. I gasped, “For shame!” No one stepped up? There is no other person who wants to volunteer? And because I am an incredibly generous-hearted, responsible individual (I mean Sucker with a capital S) I emailed the owner back and said I would be happy to serve as backstage mom. (I learned the next week that there was another Sucker in the group so I would be working with a co-backstage mom. Phew!)
The recital was at 5:30pm on a Sunday. It had been storming all afternoon. Lightning, thunder and torrential rain. Like in the jungle. Olivia and I arrived early (with her elephant costume in a garbage bag) and splashed through the puddles as we ran into the high school.
We entered the lobby and just starred. It was a MADHOUSE! The 1:30pm recital had finished moments earlier and the vast space was filled to capacity. Dancers, parents, siblings, grandparents and friends. Hugging, photos, flowers and congratulations. All very special but painfully hard to move through. Impossible, actually.
“Trying to move towards the gym.”
“I need to get to the gym, people.”
I know everyone was in the same boat, stuck in a sea of human bodies, but I could feel my anxiety level rising. I felt a frustration that was borderline rage, and then a woman to my right moved and I could see the door to the gym. I lunged forward with Olivia in tow and made it to the threshold before the sea closed in around me. I remember thinking that it will be so nice to get into the gym where is it quiet and cooler. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I walked in and was hit by a wave of hot, humid air that reeked of hairspray and body odor. The true storm that day occurred in the gym during the first recital. I looked around, flabbergasted. There were lingering dancers in various stages of dress. Forgotten clothes and lonely shoes scattered around. Empty water bottles and half-eaten bags of treats on the tables. Chairs tipped over. And then there was the heat. The left over, moist, body heat. I wanted to barf. (I can’t stand the word moist. It is gross and should only be use it in extreme circumstances. Like this one.)
I walked over to my assigned table. It was covered in left-over crafts and coloring books, half-full juice boxes and sticky puddles. Someone was even nice enough to leave a pair of dirty tights on the ground. Can you image my face at this point? (I tried to re-create the moment with my iphone this morning, but I looked like an 85 year old man in the photo, with nine double chins. You’ll have to trust me on this one…I looked disgusted! And I was profusely sweating. Already.)
When the other dancers and their moms arrived 30 minutes later, I was hot. Not sexy hot, but full-on, hot lather. I had resorted to wiping my upper lip and face with the strap to my maxi dress. It started to dawn on me that I was actually responsible for taking care of eleven 4-year-olds. Sure you can keep them occupied, but it is the little details that throw you off your game.
“I miss my Mommy. Can I go find her?”
“I’m thirsty. Can you open my straw?….Can you open my straw?…Can you open my straw?”
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
“I want to take my costume off. It’s itchy.”
“Get me more animal crackers!”
“Where’s my Mommy?”
As I jumped around the girls like a large-breasted, sweating leprechaun, I kept saying to myself, “Stay calm. You can do this. You are in control.” Right.
I was just about to take a group of girls to the bathroom (in their costumes I might add) when there was an announcement, “When An Elephant Flys is up next. Please report to the front of the gym.” My jaw literally dropped. Oh my god. We have to go. NOW! My partner and I told the girls they would have to hold it until after they danced and made sure everyone was wearing their tap shoes and got them into a single file line. We straightened their bows and touched up their lipstick. Here we go!
What I didn’t truly understand at the dress rehearsal was that we would have to wait at various check points moving from the gym to the stage. With lots of lag time. Before we left the gym, one of the dancers crouched down and put her hands on the ground. At the same time, the dancer next to her jumped up into the air and landed hard…on the crouching girl’s finger. I cringed.
The little girl was clearly in pain and had her mouth open like she was crying…but there was no noise coming out. Oh shit. The Silent Cry. This is bad.
I scooped her up in my arms and looked down at her finger thinking it would look like someone’s flattened finger in a cartoon. I said, “Zoe honey. Please try to calm down and breath. I need you to breath. You’re going to be ok.” She gasped for air and let out a cry that literally blew my hair back and punctured my eardrums. I rocked her, “Sweet heart. I know it hurts but you are going to be fine. Trust me.” Never in a million years did I think that she would actually calm down, but she did. Just as we arrived backstage. Phew.
We had to wait for at least 10 minutes or more in the backstage hallway. If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Hey girls, let’s keep our buns against the wall,” I would be a wealthy woman. The term, “Herding Cats,” makes perfect sense now. My co-backstage mom said, “Let me take a picture of you and Olivia.” I knew it would be fun to capture the moment, but I was worried about the state of my appearance. My bra and under ware where completely saturated with my own sweat, my upper lip was raw from wiping sweat off of it, and I was rocking the Dink Fuzz. (My aunt refers to the super-frizzy, short hairs around your face as Dink Fuzz. Gross? Yes. Accurate? Absolutely.) We took the photo anyway. I am so glad.
We were literally walking behind the curtains when the last little dancer inline slipped and fell in her tap shoes, landing hard. This time the cry came right away so I scooped her up and ran back into the hallway. I didn’t want her to disrupt the dancers already on stage.
I took this darling, little 4-year-old in my arms like an infant and cradled her in her elephant costume. I held her close to me and put my lips in her ear and shushed her a few times. Just like in Harvey Karp’s, “Happiest Baby on the Block.” I said, “Shush, shush, shush Little Girl. Stop crying. Shush, Shush, shush,” because I had no idea what her name was. All I needed was a swaddle and a pacifier.
I think because her other classmates were heading on stage just then or because I scared the shit out of her, she abruptly stopped crying and wiggled herself out of my arms. She wiped her tears and off she went.
Once the girls started to walk on stage, I ran from that side to the other side of the stage in just enough time to see Olivia strut into the spotlight. My heart soared as I watched her dance her dance and smile confidently. From 10 feet away. This was her first dance recital and I was right there with her in the wings. Priceless. (I’m chocked up writing this.)
We got the girls off the stage and back to the gym. Everyone was so excited. Great job! The girls couldn’t wait to get their shoes off. ALL AT ONCE!
“Nooooooo! Everyone stop right now! We need to do this in an organized way or we will loose your shoes! Not everyone has their names on their shoes! No! Stop! Right now!”
And so the craziness continued. I was physically and emotionally exhausted that night. I couldn’t wait to get out of that hell hole and take a shower and put my feet up. And in the same breath, I was so happy. I was put in a stressful situation and I survived. I did it!
When I was diagnosed with Bipolar, I thought I would never live a normal life again. I would always be a victim of my emotional state. But I proved that night that I can do it all. I can still experience a range of human emotions and not be unstable. I guess maybe you need to walk a mile in my shoes to get this. But trust me when I say it is so wonderful to feel totally “crazy” and know you are normal. And not mentally ill. Just plain old crazy.