As you know, I am the proud mother of three wonderful daughters. But, I have a secret... there is a little boy out there who is almost as dear to my heart, and as much "mine" as my own little girls. He is the son of one of my closest friends, and Child Number Two's bestest buddy.
Today, I had the privilege of witnessing something very special... because "my" boy made his dancing debut on stage this weekend, and he invited me to come and watch.
"Mikey" is a beautiful, blond cherub of a five-year-old boy. I first met him when he was just barely two... and he and my own Child Number Two were put into the same pre-school class together. Even then, I could tell that he was special-- he and my daughter seemed to become firm friends (and partners in crime) from the very second they laid eyes on one another.
Soon, Mikey became a frequent and very welcome visitor to our home, and it was then that I saw what a sensitive and creative little soul that he truly was. By the age of three, he and my girls would gallop down the basement stairs to where all of our costumes and play-acting equipment is, and they would spend hours singing and dancing about, until some sort of "show" was worked up for the mothers to enjoy.
Even then, I could see that he had that spark... that "twinkle". Because of all the kids, HE was the one you wanted to look at. He remembered the words to every song, sang in tune, and could faithfully make up steps in time to the music to go along with it. But it wasn't just that-- it was The Look. It was the joy on his face that made it almost impossible to look away from him.
Last year, when my brother was visiting, he had the opportunity to witness Mikey's talents. My brother and I were fortunate to be raised in a household where The Arts were everything-- we were taught to play many instruments (whether we wanted to play them or not!) and enthusiastically encouraged to act, sing, and dance. True to our Scottish roots, my brother has become a particularly gifted bagpiper, and I thought it would be fun to invite Mikey to come and hear him play.
While my brother was playing, the group of children I had assembled sat on the floor in front of him. But, when he began to play a lively hornpipe, Mikey just couldn't help himself. He jumped to his feet, and began to dance around the room. My brother was astounded, because the typical child's reaction to his playing is normally to cover their little ears and laugh uproariously... he had never seen a child so delighted by his music... let alone a child so small, and, as then, completely untrained, perform such a perfect, spontaneous little jig.
He agreed that Mikey needed-- and deserved-- proper lessons.
I spoke to his mother. Because for years, while I was taking hours and hours of ballet training, my father was behind me, encouraging me every step of the way. He once told me that he delighted in watching me, partly because when he was a child in war-time England, HE had wanted lessons. His parents were horrified, and refused, worried that ballet dancing would make their son a "nancy". Instead, he would listen to the music, and sneak off to the theatre to watch ballet as often as time and his finances would allow. Today, as an older gentleman, my father is still a wildly enthusiastic fan of the ballet, but it hurts my heart more than just a little to think of him as a child denied an opportunity... especially for such a silly, ignorant reason.
Mikey's mother is a wonderful, intelligent, open-minded person. She had no problem putting him into a dance class this school year... and it was made much easier by the fact that Mikey did NOT want to follow in his older brother's hockey skates, thus freeing up the family schedule immensely.
And he blossomed. He loved every minute of it. His teachers were astounded by him, and advanced him to a class that was as high as he could go, without being too far out of his age-group.
Of course, this is where the "Oliver Button" part of the story comes in. The part that his mother and I simply cringe about... because Mikey is the ONLY boy I saw in the dance recital today... and probably one of the few boys in this entire region who enthusiastically takes dance lessons.
His mother says that he doesn't talk much about his dancing to other kids his age. Of course, he talks about it to me, and to my daughters. We're all ferociously proud of him. But, I hear tales about other boys teasing him... mostly, boys his older brother's age. The fact that I find that hard to hear is the understatement of the century... How is it possible that in this day and age, with all the good things we are teaching the Men Of Tomorrow about sensitivity and creativity... we still can't seem to get them to appreciate these traits in one another? Beyond that, how is it possible to watch a male dancer in action, whether he's three or thirty three, and not appreciate the magnificent physical agility and discipline it takes to perform well?
Well, today, "my" boy strutted out onto that enormous stage with his face simply lit up with happiness. There were no nerves, no mis-steps. Just a clear picture of an amazing little boy showing EVERYBODY what he loves to do best. And the audience roared with applause in response. I could not have been prouder, it brought tears to my eyes.
Next year, his mother will be enrolling him in more classes. Someday, I have the feeling we'll all be hearing about him, and when that happens, I'll be crowing it from the rooftops.
Mikey, little man... Today, You Are A Star.