"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 18, 2012
Driving to Ballet
by Hannah Bird

When I was a little girl, I had very clear ideas about how I was going to spend my time as an adult. I was quite certain that I was going to live in Vermont tucked away in a cabin. I was going to have two dogs. I was going to write. As you can see this was a well thought out plan, heavy on detail, and thoroughly grounded in reality. So it came as a bit of a shock when it didn’t pan out.

My plan started to veer off course when I met The Boy. He was tall and had green eyes. His brown hair shone red in the sun. He made a wild wandering girl feel like she had found home. But like most really amazing deals in life, there was a catch.

You see, when I married The Boy, I unwittingly married into what I lovingly refer to as the ballet cartel. I refer to it lovingly because like most cartels, the ballet cartel does not encourage negative feedback. It’s a little like Fight Club only with more tulle and less whining. The Boy was the only brother of three beautiful ballerinas. Like most young women in love, I overlooked this, assuming that just because I did not dance, hadn’t danced, and never wanted to dance, it would have no impact on me.

Then one day the call came. It was my beautiful sister-in-law. She is the owner and director of a ballet school at which she and the other two sisters also teach. She explained that I would be happy to sign my daughters up for ballet. This thing had never before occurred to me. But my sister-in-law is tricky. She sounds like Karo syrup, but she is not to be trifled with. I signed my girls up.

This is how I came to the true calling of my adult life — driving to ballet. It didn’t start off too ominously. I drove two little girls to ballet two times a week, two blocks from my house. But what I did not realize was that while I thought I was raising children, my sisters-in-law thought I was raising more ballerinas. My week filled up with dancing days.

In the process of having more ballerinas, we had also outgrown our tiny house. We found a perfect (huge) house with a nice setup for farm animals. It was our dream come true. So we moved. My sister-in-law graciously permitted us to move the 20 miles away from the ballet studio provided it in no way affected the girls’ ballet attendance. Anxious for multiple working bathrooms and nine bedrooms, I agreed.

By now the ballet life had started to leak into our life everywhere. Our boys went to character dance class. My older girls began to teach. And since I was always there anyway, I ended up as the stage manager and PR director. My planner was filled with ballet days, careful noted lest I arrive on the wrong day with the wrong girl. Our school started performing The Nutcracker in addition to the spring recital. Our lives were pirouetting ever faster. So I drove. I drove to ballet and back from ballet and on more than one day, to ballet again.

I watched so many ballet lessons that I, the non-dancer, could nitpick beurres, swinging hips, open fifths, and soup-stirring arms. I watched my daughters’ annoyance when a new skill evaded them. I watched them break open with joy when they mastered it. I watched them work from the corps to solo spots. I watched them learn to dance with boys. I watched them realize they were beautiful.

Stuck in the car together day after day, we talked. We talked about zombies on foggy nights. We talked about politics. I listened to my daughter revoke her crush when the object of her affection used a racial slur. I listened to my younger daughter explain every detail of Sherlock Holmes with a level of minutiae that would have made Doyle himself a little nervous. I listened to them discuss how they saw me and themselves and everything else.

I got to talk sometimes. Riding home at night, side by side in the wintry dark, was a perfect time to talk about difficult things. Together, but not face to face, we talked about sex and love and heartache. We talked about choices and faith. We talked about history and mistakes. They let me tell them about consequence and injury. Mixed with a much sarcasm and laughter, my kids let me say really difficult things in the dark.

Every now and then, other mothers would comment on the distance I travelled. I made the requisite living-in-the-car jokes. But mostly, I spent my time. I was not a writer like I had dreamed. In, fact, there were a lot of things that I wasn’t. I was driving to ballet and home. I felt vaguely guilty about not accomplishing more. I always planned to accomplish more. Driving to ballet didn’t feel like a very satisfying résumé.

Until last May.

Last May, I stood in the wings of the stage watching my daughter dance her senior solo. It was a dance of her own creation. As I watched her balance and perfect arabesque on her toes, reality hit me. I was done driving her to ballet. I would never sit in the car again and see her bun-adorned head in my rearview mirror. I would never listen to her questions in the dark. I would never listen to her and her sisters giggle about that evening’s class.

So this is what I am. I am a woman who drives to ballet. I write but only in the tiny momentsnot already swallowed up in pink on the calendar. But I am not sorry now. Time gets spent. You can drive ballet or make dinner or write. But the time is spent. You can’t save it. You can only choose where the minutes go. For me I choose to spend my minutes in the car listening to my children, knowing that this window is closing all too fast.


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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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