More writing is forthcoming, I promise
Right now I'm busy setting up an online storefront. Heck, that makes for a good story...
When my dad left, we moved in with Grandma (as you may recall from the archives). I think mom sent us to ballet class out of guilt. I know she couldn't afford it. It's possible that her brothers and sisters chipped in. They are those kind of people.
However it came about, my sister and I got to take ballet and tap lessons for almost a year. Every Tuesday we would run home from school, drop off our books, grab our dance bags, and catch the Gravois bus to go to dance class.
The school was on Gravois, between the White Castle and K-Mart. The reception area had pale violet carpeting and dark red chairs. I barely noticed the clashing decor, however; because my eyes were inevitably drawn to the photos on the walls. There were hundreds of framed 5x7 photos of girls in dance costumes. These were the real dancers. The ones who had actually been on stage, in front of an audience. I so my picture on one of those walls. There were more pictures lining the halls to the changing room. Every time I passed beneath them, I'd think, "I'm going to be better than you. They're going to hang my picture right out front.
I worked myself silly learning to shuffle-ball-change. I lost my baby fat doing tedius plie's. Up and down, up and down. Turn out your feet, tuck in your butt. Straighten your back. Up and down.
Our teacher had a cane that she would tap you with if your form was wrong. Her gentle taps never hurt, but it was humiliating to have your positioning corrected in front of the whole class. It didn't matter that she tapped everyone equally. What mattered was that she was tapping you.
And, oh! The pain of those excercises. First the warm-up stretches (no problem), then moving through the 5 positions (pain in the back, pain in the ankles, knees aching, arms turned to jelly, straighten your back, lift your chin and smile!) -followed by a million plie's.
But I was going to be a dancer. I was going to be on stage. My daddy would see my name in lights, and he would be proud of me.
Yeah, that was a nice fantasy.
I loved all that hard work. I loved finally getting my chance to tap dance to a bit of music on stage. I loved the costume that mom had to borrow money to pay for; and I didn't understand when the dance lessons stopped.
My sister and I begged to be allowed to go back. We swore we would scrub floors or work in factories to pay for it. Our pleas must have broken my mom's heart; but the dance lessons were too expensive, and we just couldn't do it anymore.
I wouldn't give up my tap shoes, though.
My first year at Visual and Performing Arts magnet school, I took acting and art. The next year I took acting and dance. I kept up the exercises when I changed schools. In total, I spent 5 years doing ballet exercises for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week.
As a result, I have arthritis in both my knees. I'm 35 years old, and there are days when the only thing that gets me moving is the need to get my son to school. In the winter time, it feels like a dozen icepicks are shoved into my knees. I (sometimes) do physical therapy exercises with 10 lb weights on my ankles to strengthen my legs.
It's funny, in a way. In order to slow the deterioration from too many years of dancing, I have to maintain dancer's muscles.
Which leads me to my store. I make an arthritis salve from shea butter and comfrey, I also make an oil. This stuff keeps me moving on my bad days. It enables me to do my PT, to walk without limping, to drive. Ahhh, comfrey.
As an added benefit, it's shrinking the stretch marks on my belly. (because, I just had to try it everywhere)
I used my friends as guinea-pigs, and put comfrey on everything from tendonitis to gout, and by god-it works! At the urging of my hubby and friends, I've started selling it online.
I hope you enjoyed my story, and I realized I forgot the best part about dance class. We would use our bus fare to buy white castles, and walk the 3 miles home in the dark. I was 8 and my sister was 9.