As I began to drift to sleep last night I journeyed to an earlier time in my life. It was Summer Intensives at the ballet studio. I was, 6 or 7…maybe 8. I don’t remember getting out of the car each day and yet I have a vague sense I opened the door and wandered alone into the courtyard and then the studio. The smells, sounds, feelings engulfed and filled me, last night and then…so long ago. Wood stained with sweat, resin crunching under feet, visions of inverted sit-ups from the stage floor and the soft graceful grunts from aspiring ballerinas mixed with almost silent giggles and eyes communicating back and forth with no actually words being spoken. The chair purposefully placed at the door for viewing parents. The cane perched in the far corner to the door…leading down. I can see the laminate flooring as I walk towards the dressing room where the wooden door would swing open and closed in the softest way and the quiet tap of the metal hook that fit in a latch for privacy, something I would only gaze up at for many a year. The privacy curtain, barely used and the day light filtered in through a frosted window. The floor seemed covered in an array of ballet bags and shoes, ribbons and the smell of leather and suede and satin and the faint hint of blood. Peroxide, Alcohol, Isopropyl of course, Jean Nate. Oh the Jean Nate, mixed with more sweat and cotton. Pink, lots of the palest pink color you’ve ever seen. Scarfs, leg warmers…short ones and long ones. Bobby pins, hair pins, hair ties, scarves, chiffon. Smiles, tears, a sound I would hear a little later in life pokes in from the future with a faint sound of guitar strumming and low volume singing from the teenager who swept through for a time. And now we begin, stretching on the same sweat stained floor, bar exercises, giant mirrors, no place to hide, releve…up, down. Pirouette’s, grand jete’s…me watching in awe. Ronds de Jambe, turning, turning, turning, more smiling mixed with a few tears quickly wiped away before they were seen. Stern eyes watching…always watching, a faint hint of a smile behind and yet not openly shared…in an effort to remain focused. Hands clapped, this class was over. Lunch time now, I was alone…did I have a lunch packed for me, memory doesn't serve. Ah, there she was, she spritzed herself with Jean Nate, wrapped her scarf around her beautiful ballerina neck and then herself inside a jacket, hiding her lovely collar bones. I could trace those bones even today. She took my hand in hers, no recollection if this outing was planned for me by another or by her or if she just saw the lost little one inside me. She led me out the door and down the street. She put me on her shoulders…for fun or because her legs were longer and it was quicker, although I don’t remember feeling we were in a rush. Up, what looks like, a short flight of stairs to an apartment, where an older woman sat knitting. I was recently reminded of her title…Granny. I was fed and looked after with a quiet love and sense of belonging that my inner child hadn't yet understood. And then, hand in hand, we would walk or skip back to the studio. Did this happen every day that summer or is it one strong memory of a day that is so clear. This week or day or segment was the Flamenco class of our Summer Intensive at the ballet studio. I don’t think I was old enough to participate, however I do remember it as the first and last time I touched castañetas and saw character shoes in action. Today, I relive these all-encompassing visions and wonder if my memories are real or if it was different and in what way. I google her name and wonder where she landed and if her collar bones are the same and her soft smile just as sweet. I believe it is. All of this feels right, it looks clear enough to me today, just as it did last night before I drifted off.
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