Penny started dancing at the age of two; donned in adorable little tutus, jumping alongside friends, entertaining the moms and oblivious to what dance even was. Dance continued off and on over the years, complimented and interrupted by gymnastics, basketball and tennis. As she approached her 7th grade year I asked her to pick one activity to truly dedicate herself to so she could build discipline and see growth. She chose dance. She auditioned and was selected to join the Connect team, a program designed for new competitive dancers. She was placed into two routines, one contemporary and one hip hop, with the same group of girls, all competing for the first time. It has been remarkable to see how they’ve grown and what they achieved as a team.
Creative Dance Center’s Nutcracker in a Shell is an abbreviated, updated take on the classic and a festive community event. The performances raise funds for CDC’s non-profit IPAYouth, an organization dedicated to supporting dance education. With only ten rehearsals, over sixty dancers and one dress rehearsal the dancers have to be ready to perform. It is a lot of work, a lot of waiting, a lot of coordination and a lot of details. And it is a lot more than just a performance.
Hair represents strength and beauty. In some cultures hair is believed to be your connection to Mother Earth. Her hair means tangles and knots, getting caught in her food, her backpack, her jacket. Her hair trails behind her when she runs and leaps, falls and tumbles when she collapses from a backbend or laughter, splays around her sleeping face. Her hair represents childhood.
She wore her long locks with pride, her dedication and discipline showing in every inch. I only saw tangles and hassle. I began a campaign to encourage her to cut her hair by making it an act of good. Her precious locks would be donated to a child suffering from hair loss. But the thought of losing 12 inches was too much so I waited. With her 12th birthday approaching I decided to renew my campaign, using the significance of this date as a motivator to leave elementary school behind with a fresh new look for middle school. To my surprise she agreed. And to my surprise I was overcome with emotions as I saw those precious locks falling to the floor. Each lock held a carefree, childhood memory. And as I watched what I thought would be a joyous, celebratory moment I felt sad for what we were losing and what I will continue to lose.
How do you carry your heart of gold? Are there some mornings where its sheer weight makes it hard to rise? Does it push and pull other organs, throwing its weight around? Does it flow blood the same, push beats the same, feel love the same?
How do you bear a heart of gold? Does each slight cut deeper, each hurt sting sharper? When you give so openly what do you have left for yourself?
How do you feel with your heart of gold? Does each hug feel warmer? Do the kind words, acts of grace, thoughtful gestures fill you up fuller? Do you carry love deeper?
I may not know how it feels for you but I know how it feels for us.
Today is day 72 of quarantine, today is also Penny’s 11th birthday. In an average year this date could have fallen on a school day for her and a work day for me, a chaotic day of commitments squeezing in celebrations where we can. But instead it’s day 72 of quarantine, of social-distancing, of distance learning, of work from home. Her morning started with our usual birthday breakfast tradition but instead of rushing out the door she was surprised with a “Happy 11th Birthday Penny!!” chalk art message thoughtfully and beautifully decorating our front side walk, with homemade doughnuts dropped off with homemade cards and a lot of love, with texts, messages and videos as they streamed in from friends near and far, and a socially-distanced ice cream break which turned into a water gun fight (OK, the six feet distance may not have been enforced the whole time). So on her 11th birthday, the 72nd day of quarantine, of social-distancing and isolation, she felt streamers full of love, coming from every which way, tumbling down on her.