Monday, January 16, 2012

All The World Is A Stage

All the world is a story
All the world is a stage
All the world is a canvas
All the world is a page
All the world is a someone
All the world is a dance
All the world is a moment
All the world is a chance

The first time Miss J ever sang for an audience was when she was two years old.  She sang "Away In A Manger" with her Sunday School class for the Christmas Program.  She wore a cream, red and black plaid silk dress with a black velvet bow.  She stood with her class, smiling brightly and singing with gusto.

When the song was done, the first words she spoke to me were, "When can I do that again?"  She was two years old when she learned that she loved the stage.  Performing is her passion.  Be it singing or dancing, she is always willing to put on a show.

From that dayforward, she couldn't wait until she turned three.  Turning three was a very important milestone, because that was the age she knew that she was old enough to begin official dance lessons.  She loved going to her class.  She loved her tiny pink ballet slippers and her tights and leotard.  She loved her shiny (and loud) black tap shoes that tied with a grosgrain ribbon.  She knew that in the spring, the session would end with a recital and she would be on the stage once again.

At home, the living room was her stage.  Our family, her audience.  She would belt out songs from "Annie" and choreographed her own dances.  Everywhere she went (and I do mean everywhere), she sang and she danced.

At the age of six, her dance focus shifted to Irish Step dance.   When she was eight, she joined a performance troop and came alive every time she took the stage.  As one of the younger members of the group, she had not yet learned all of the dances that were performed.  At one particularly large show, the group was one dancer short for a group dance.  Miss J had seen the dance performed, but had never been taught the dance.  At the last second, she was told to take the stage. There was no time for preparation. She had no fear, no anxiety.  Miss J beamed with pride that she had been asked to dance..  She made some mistakes and fumbled her way through parts of the dance, but the smile never left her face.  Anyone watching could see this is where she was meant to be.  She was in her element.

I recall one Sunday morning when Miss J woke up with a fever nearing 104 and complaining of the "worst stomach ache" she'd ever had.  I called the pediatrician who told me to give her Motrin and bring her right in.  Normally closed on Sundays, he opened the office for her.  By the time we had arrived, the Motrin had kicked in and she was feeling quite fine.  My 'sick' child, the one who the pediatrician had opened the office on a Sunday for, stood up and sang song after song for her doctor. Mortified, I apologized profusely for him having to come in.  He wasn't angry.  He sat there on that Sunday morning, grinning,  as she sang to him. Days later, a chest x-ray revealed that Miss J was indeed sick.  She had pneumonia.  The 'stomach ache' she felt was actually pain coming from the lower part of the lung.

Miss J will accept any offer to sing or dance.  She thrives on it.  I asked her once, "Miss J, do you ever get nervous on stage?  Do you ever worry that you might forget the steps or the words or that you might make a mistake?"

She looked at me as if I had lost my mind.
"Mama, " She began, "Why should I be nervous?  I'm a little kid!  Do you really think anyone is going to care if I mess up?"

This is what I love so much about her.  Her passion.  Her fearlessness.  How she embraces a new challenge.

I wish I could be more like her in that regard.  I think about how many dances I sat out because I was afraid to look foolish.  How many potential new experiences I turned away because I was afraid.  How many things I didn't even try because I thought I might mess up.

She makes me proud.  And the slightest bit envious. I wish I had it.  I hope she never, ever loses it.

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