Coming Full Circle in the The Circle of Life

Monday, May 28, 2018
When do you know you've traveled the 'Circle of Life'?  Certainly with the passing of elder members of a family or with the birth of new members of a family, but today I experienced another circle - a full circle of life.  Having had two daughters, (two daughters who were not athletic or interested in sports) instead of shuttling kids to practices and spending hours on soccer fields or basketball courts I shuttled our girls to dance class.  Katie started her dance career when she was 6 1/2 and Laura began at the ripe old age of 2 1/2.  For the next 14 years, there'd be a lot of dancing in our lives most of which culminated in a recital at the end of the school year, but not all.  Laura was born dancing and she danced all the home mimicking music videos on TV, previous dance recital dances on VHS, or simply choreographing her own dances to any music available.  Both girls began taking ballet and tap, each for a few years, and then both transitioned to jazz.  As a stay-at-home mom, money wasn't plentiful, but we made sure there was always enough to fund dance class, leotards, tap shoes, ballet shoes and eventually jazz shoes.  Sometimes we got lucky and Laura would be able to wear Katie's hand-me-downs.  A few times a year parents would be able to watch class and we'd get to see our little dancers leap and float across the dance floor. Sometimes they'd bobble or stumble, but it didn't matter.   Their teacher always emphasized that it wasn't about was about building confidence, self esteem, poise and grace.  Just like with any activity or sport, some kids have a natural gift and others have to work at it.  That's how it was in our house.  Laura had the music in her and although she certainly worked hard to memorize her steps, her body felt the rhythm and moved in response and it was easy to see she was meant to dance.   Katie loved to dance but it didn't come quite as naturally for her.  She worked diligently perfecting her form, her posture, her grace and was every bit the beautiful dancer as her sister. 
From 1986-2000 the end of May heralded the end of that year of dance with a dance recital.  Sparkly costumes were ordered months before.... and by the evening of dress rehearsal, emotions were high in anticipation of the big event.  I don't know about all the moms of dancers, but this mom never outgrew the stage mom nerves.  Besides the normal worries about whether or not they'd remember their steps, or lose a hair accessory during their dance, I had the added worries of a mom of a diabetic child.  Did she remember to blood test and snack before her dance?  Is she low?  Is she high from nerves?  Oh it was an emotional time for this mama!  But it was always fine and as I looked through the video lens from the back row of the auditorium, it was always such a proud feeling watching our girls perform year after year.  Katie danced right through her senior year of high school. Laura gave it up at the end of her sophomore year.
The girls weren't the only ones who had the dance bug.  John participated too.  He danced with other dads in the Dad Dance - a sort of comic relief dance right after intermission.  Unlike some of the other dads who participated for fun, John took his role pretty seriously.  He practiced his routine, over and over.  Consequently he became 'the guy to follow' most years.  This is where I should add that John is like Katie - not a natural dancer and those who know him won't be surprised to hear he did not spend his young adult life dancing in clubs.  That didn't stop him, nor did it dampen his enthusiasm.  He was a dancing machine.  Over the course of his recitals he danced to Uptown Girl, YMCA, Chain Gang, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Surfin' USA, Alley Oop, Dance With Me, and Soul Man.  And yes....we have them all on video tape.  So, you see dancing and dance recitals have been a big part of Life here in the Welter household.
That tradition came full circle today.  Today we attended a dance recital, not just any recital but a dance recital of the same dance studio our girls attended, in the same auditorium our girls performed in.  Only today the tiny dancer we were watching was our 7 yr. old granddaughter, Elena.  This is her third year dancing, but our first recital because her first two years were in Indiana.  Elena took tap and ballet, just like her mom and her little sister follows in the family footsteps, also taking tap and ballet.  Like our girls, one sister is a natural and one is a practiced star.  Not much has changed over the years.  Tension was high in the auditorium 45 minutes before the curtain rose, parents and extended family rushing to find the best seats, many armed with bouquets of flowers for their little ballerinas.  Unlike the old days, today I was merely a spectator - no camera or video camera with me.  I was determined to relax and just enjoy the show.  The theme for this year's recital was Circle of Life so the first several numbers were all from the Lion King and were all so well done.   Then came the younger dancers....Elena's first number was 7th in the series of 22 numbers.  She was also dancing in the 20th number.  I'd seen her demonstrate her routine in my living room, to the designated music, and was proud of how good she was.  She reminded me of Katie at her age - the look of determination on her face, her practiced posture, outstretched arms and pointed fingers.  Although I'd seen the practice version, nothing could have prepared me for today's performance.
From the moment the music began and these tiny ballerinas tip toed on stage as Taylor Swift's lyrics provided a backdrop to my first grandchild's practiced routine, my heart melted and my body shook as I turned into a blubbering, tearful mess that despite my most valiant effort could not be controlled until she walked off stage.  If you've never heard this song, the lyrics go like this:
Never Grow Up

Your little hands wrapped around my finger
And it's so quiet in the world tonight
Your little eyelids flutter cause you're dreaming
So I tuck you in and turn on your favorite nightlight
To you, everything's funny
You got nothing to regret
I'd give all the I have honey
If you could stay like that

Oh darling, don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up.
Just stay little
It could stay this simple
I won't let nobody hurt you
Won't let no one break your heart
No one will desert you
Just try to never grow up

Of course it goes on and on, but I lost track of the lyrics eventually.  All I could think of was how my life has come full circle...from sitting here, in this auditorium where I watched so many recitals with my own daughters, and now here I was watching my granddaughter.  For a moment I felt like a pregnant, hormonal, crazy woman but in reality I know only the last of those adjectives is true.  Thank God I was wearing my waterproof mascara!  I don't normally cry easily, but everything about today made the stars align and in that moment I sat there feeling incredibly blessed, grateful to have lived long enough to experience such a sight, (not everyone does) and proud to have the love of dance continue in my grandchildren.  I'm pretty sure that granddads don't have the same reaction when watching their grandsons hit their first baseball, well they might but I imagine they hold it in better than I managed to.  Life is pretty awesome most days.  Some days can be a challenge but I'll take those challenges because days like today make it all worthwhile.  Life isn't always filled with joy.  In today's world there's plenty of things that can make us question, make us anxious, frightened....days like last week in Noblesville, IN where Laura and Eric lived when they were in Indiana.  But days like yesterday....I can praise God, not just for bringing my family back from Indiana, but for giving me a life that gives me days like yesterday that cripple me with humility, gratitude, overflowing love and pride and tears of joy that can't be contained.  Little Braelyn didn't get to be in the big recital this year, but I'm confident that next year when she tip toes across the big stage for the first time, with a smile the size of Texas on her face, dancing like a natural for all the world to see, I'll probably be the same teary mess I was today and I'll be prepared with my waterproof mascara and tissues and I'll be thanking God for giving me a life full of moments like these and people to love, not just on recital days, but all the days in between.   And this is where it all began........

Thank you Creative Dance Arts for 33 years of dancing memories!
Post Script: Here we are in 2022, after a two-year pause thanks to Covid. This past weekend we got to attend the girls dance recital. Braelyn danced a jazz routine and Elena danced jazz and modern…..both flawless and poised. I did not ‘ugly cry’ but a tear or two may have leaked as I beamed with pride, and my heart swelled with love for these young ladies who I’m lucky enough to call granddaughters.

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