Cue: onwards.

I’m watching her sleep, and it’s all I can do to not try and scoop her into my lap like when she was two. She’s my height now, this walking talking piece of my heart. I’m watching her sleep and hoping the sadness in her face will ease into peaceful rest, because tonight her spirit took a hit.

Simple enough idea, fun enough plan. Kids sign up for a dance improv line – they pin a number on, and get 30 seconds to perform to a piece of music. They’re to express in movement what the music makes them feel. She was her usual thrum of excitement about a chance to dance. To her, moving to music is happiness. This the child who said “dance makes my heart feel energied” when she was six and didn’t have words to express herself.

She missed her cue. Not the cue to start, she stepped forward and danced according to plan; she missed the cue to stop. It’s technically not a big deal. Rationally it’s just 30 or 40 seconds. Some confusion, and a little bit of trying too hard. She was dancing like no one was watching, except she was on stage in a ballroom full of people and the longer she went past the repeated cue to stop, the louder the ripple of laughter became.

I tried, when she was off stage and our eyes met. I tried to be the chipper voice of reasonable cheer and brush it off as “one of those things” but I think my face betrayed me, her scared confusion and then embarrassment had made my heart break. She needed a good cry and I let her have it. As I cupped her face and dried her tears, I asked her if she knew what I was going to say. “Onwards…” she gulped. She knows what it means, she hears it all the time. She knows tonight was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. She knows life hands us situations that steal our breath and senses, but leave us stronger on the other side. Tonight we both wished getting there didn’t sometimes involve a gut punch to the self esteem.

Now I’m not sure the next time opportunity knocks, she won’t run scenarios first. I’m sad she put her heart into something to the point of getting lost in it, and it led to how she felt tonight. I mostly hate seeing her confidence shaken, especially related to something she has loved for more than half the time I have known her. Tomorrow (today as I am writing this) is another day. The sun will shine, the music will surge, and we will resume the ridiculous madness that is competitive dance. It will be onwards. As always.



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