I locate my granddaughter in a group of costumed dancers in the wings stage left, on their break from the tech rehearsal for their dance recital. I’m relieved to find her and be able to hand her the small paper sack containing her lunch.
“I wasn’t sure whether you liked chicken or beef so I got you a half a wrap of each,” I told her. She was surprised to see me in that location but her smile said I was most welcome. We’d been attempting to text one another for the last 45 minutes but the texts wouldn’t go in or out of her phone. Texting had worked the night before but later her brother told me it was because their Dad had set her phone not to work during school hours so she wouldn’t be distracting her schoolwork with it.
I totally agreed with my son-in-law’s regulating his daughter’s cell phone use but I felt upset that no one had thought about this barrier interfering with my doing my duty. Her phone could communicate with her father and two brothers, but they were two hours away at a statewide soccer match. I had flown in to Nebraska from Pittsburgh to be a surrogate stage mother. My daughter, her mother, would be here with all the other mothers if she could; carrying costumes, holding shoe bags and lunches, helping backstage with make-up, taking pictures with her cell phone. But she died of breast cancer when my granddaughter was seven, and though she’s been busy demonstrating, as most fourteen-year-old girls tend to do, that she doesn’t need a mother, I determine that she does. And it’s important to me to be there for her, especially since I had been a professional dancer in my own young life. Unlike her soccer, where I can’t offer much help, dancing is more in my line of expertise.
“Would you like a couple of notes from your dancing grandmother about your dancing?” I asked. When she said yes, I forged ahead. “In the America number, your energy is great for the big movements, but you tend to drop it when you walk into the new formation.” She admitted she did this because she was tired. “For the performance, the task is to keep the energy up through the lesser movements because it’s all of one piece. It all matters,” I tell her.
My second note involves not standing behind the person in front of you. They may not be where they’re suppose to be, and you may be right on your mark, but you have to adjust to their incorrect position or no one will see you.”
She accepted my advice graciously, and seeing her do what I suggested in the performance, made me an especially proud stage grandmother.