Pack It In

Packing it in

I just read about a new trend in the New York Post: New York City parents can now outsource their kids’ camp packing to a professional, at the cost of $250/hour, or $1,000 for the average camper. Let me repeat that: not $1,000 for the children to go anywhere. Just to get them ready to go.

Let me say at the outset: I get it.

It doesn’t matter whether they are heading into the wild for a month, or attending an academic camp at a local university for a long weekend; camp packing is frustration’s fertile ground. You as a parent have a clear vision of what is appropriate and right in terms of clothing, footwear, and toiletries. Your kid will have a carefully calibrated and diametrically opposed stance.

Here’s how it might look in a movie, one few people would pay to see because why would they need to? They’re living it at home:

INT. CHILD’S BEDROOM-NIGHT

MOM is staring into the recesses of an overflowing duffel bag, while CHILD idly flips through his/her Instagram account nearby and tries to ignore her.

Mom: “If you’re going for the week, you’ll need two pairs of jeans, three pairs of shorts, and four tshirts.”

Child: “No, I put in six pairs of jeans, one pair of shorts, and my TFIOS tank top. And that raincoat won’t fit so I’m leaving it here.”

Mom: “But it’s supposed to rain. I’ve been reading the forecast!”

Child: “I’ll be fine. I need the space for my fourteen pairs of flip flops.”

Mom: “You need two pairs of flip flops per day?” MOM digs around in duffel bag. “All I see are stuffed animals. Where are the underpants?

MOM and CHILD sigh and eye roll. Fade to black.

It really doesn’t matter what the item of clothing is, or the quantities, or who is suggesting what be packed. What matters is the disagreement, and the belief that the other person has no idea what he/she is talking about.

Leaving aside that the Camp Packing Consultant featured in the article says that the reason parents do this is so that they can bring the feeling of home to camp, by duplicating bedding and providing extra shelving…ok, I can’t leave that aside. Have these parents missed that the entire point of camp, which is to give your child experience with a place that isn’t home, a side effect of which is adventure and an increased sense of confidence? In the parlance of the Internet, I have lost my ability to can.

Anyhoo: back to the outsourced packing. First of all, can we agree that, just as giving birth is not necessary to make a person a parent – shout out to all my adoptive and foster parent friends– there are certain experiences which, if avoided entirely, imperil your right to call yourself a mom or dad. Sleepless nights with an infant. A public meltdown by a toddler that causes other diners to shoot you the hairy eyeball. A six hour long elementary school talent show. A herky-jerky car ride with a new driver.

And overseeing the packing of a suitcase when a child is going to be gone for more than 24 hours.

I feel like we are getting to a point with modern parenting where people are so eager to opt out of the boring, unpleasant parts that we may as well just acknowledge it and investigate new parenting models. Here in the Bay Area, there are apartment buildings that offer residents the chance to share a dog who lives by the front desk. Residents can sign the puppy in and out of for walks, snuggles, whatever. Then when they’re done with the pooch, presumably right before the dog needs to relieve itself, they sign it back in to the concierge and go on with their carefree days.

My sixteen year old, for one, says she would happily sign up for a Rent-a-Kid service where people who don’t want to do the dirty work of parenting, but see the appeal of arriving at the boss’ summer picnic with a obedient, clean teenager in tow, could just rent her for a few hours. I think she’d probably make more money as a camp packing consultant, putting to use her past four summers of camping experience that taught her that yes, raincoats were invented for a reason.

But her customers would miss out on the silver lining of helping their kids prepare: it’s so annoying that when the child finally leaves, the separation will be far be less painful than you imagined. Because while you will miss them terribly, you won’t miss the nightly argument about whether anyone needs four nightgowns for three nights away.

Pack it up, pack it in, I came to win (the fight over whether or not you need to pack socks. Yes, yes you do.)

 

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Here’s To The Girls They Were

Before they were our moms, they were something else.

Pretty obvious fact, but especially when you’re a kid, it’s easy to believe that not only your life but your mother’s started at your conception. In the self-centered universe that is childhood, nothing is less logical than your mother having any sort of past life. What would she need that for? She’s got ME.

But she did have a past life, and she made a choice to leave it behind when she became a mom. Maybe not entirely, maybe not every moment, but she made – makes – a conscious decision to let go of it, in order to have the energy, the creativity, and the sturdiness to be a mom. So on this Mother’s Day, I say we take a moment in recognition of the Girls Our Moms Were.

My mom grew up in Rochester as the youngest of three sisters and I’m pretty sure the three of them were the ringers that everyone liked to invite to their parties in the early 1950’s. They were pretty, they laughed easily, they were not above neighborhood mischief involving but not limited to roller skates, pilfered sugar packets during the wartime rationing years, and one stolen canoe. My mother has an outsize sense of fun and is the queen of the self-deprecating quip, painting herself as the dummy we know she’s not. One of her favorite stories to tell is how she and her roommate Nancy – who I’m named after – took at performing arts class in college. The professor announced to the class he was going to lecture about Giuseppe Verdi. Then he turned to Mom and Nancy and said, “That’s Joe Green to you two.”

Party on Mom

Back in the day. Mom’s the Rapunzel-esque blonde.My godfather is dressed as a sailor and drinking beer from a fishbowl.

When Mom had a big milestone birthday last December, my sister in law and my niece presented her with a precious gift. They’d taken Mom’s deteriorating, tattered college scrapbook and painstakingly transferred its contents into a new archival book, keeping the layout and contents of each page intact. It overflowed with cocktail napkins printed with fraternity insignias, programs from the Winter Carnival, playbills from trips to New York City as part of her theater class (where they went to hear Joe Green’s music.) There were black and white photos of Mom in full Mad Men mode, cocktail dresses, dark lipstick, trapeze coats and coiffed blonde hair. This is, I presume, the period my mother referred to during our growing-up years when she used to say, “Back when I had money for fancy clothes. Before you kids were born.”

At some point as Mom looked through the scrapbook in the middle of the party, her eyes widened and she said, “I think I’d better look at this later” and quickly slammed the cover shut. Though she whispered it, I heard her older sister, my Aunt Noonie, quietly say, “I told you if you danced on that table, you were going to fall off eventually.”

noonie and momMom became a kindergarten teacher when she graduated, and a summer or two later she and a couple of girlfriends spent the summer driving from Rochester to San Francisco. We’ll never really know the full extent of the adventures she had on the trip. I do know that a few times as I’ve driven her from Oakland into San Francisco across the Bay Bridge and said, “Now we’re crossing Treasure Island, it’s an old military base,” she’s said, “Oh, I know. We had dinner on Treasure Island at the Commanding Officer’s house. We’d met some sailors who invited us there.” Oh, okay, Mom who gets invited to high security Naval bases for dinner.

Shortly after the cross country trip my mother connected with my dad; when they married, her devoted students showed up at the steps of the church, wooden rulers in hand, to raise them into an arch for Mom and Dad to walk through. The picture made the front page of the local paper.

And then she became a mom, and while she had a career in education and administration, and she’s travelled with my dad, and has read a million books and seen a thousand movies, the biggest segment of the pie chart that is her life is labelled “Mom,” with a secondary slice called “Grandma.” That Thelma and Louise life, the one where she wore the expensive clothes and danced on the tables and got invited out by sailors, was edged out by the one where she made homemade vocabulary flashcards for her preschool-aged children, cooked us Yorkshire pudding, and sat on the front porch on hot summer days killing flies with a flyswatter so my brother could feed his pet turtle. That mischievous younger life faded into mere memory as she attended her grandkids’ dance recitals and volleyball games and graduations.

Mom has never once made us feel that she has regrets. But this Mother’s Day, let’s just take a minute and appreciate the enormity of the moment when our mothers made the conscious decision to put their girlhoods in a scrapbook, so they’d have room in their lives for us.

My mom’s favorite song, El Paso by Marty Robbins, covered by the band I’m seeing tomorrow night: Old 97s. She will hate this version.

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Moms Are Nuts, and A Bunch of Us Wrote About It

moms are nuts coverWhen I was invited by writer, humorist, and delusionist Amy Vansant to contribute an essay to an anthology called Moms Are Nuts! I was thrilled. Which of my most epic mothering fails should I use? That time I entertained the girls by reenacting a run-in with a wild turkey and got the dog to reenact his role in the drama? That time I took my infant daughter to a homeless encampment that I thought was a Halloween festival? That time I insisted to my daughter that the chorus to the Lorde song was, “The coal house in, the coal house in, the coal house in,” and she explained that no, it’s “Send the call out, send the call out, send the call out”? SO much material.

Then Amy explained that no, this is not for stories about ourselves as moms. It’s about moms we have known. Now, my mom is a lovely lady, and I didn’t feel right throwing her overboard alone. So I strapped myself to her and wrote something that indicts both of us. It’s about how you say you’ll never turn into your mother, then you actually outdo her at her own game. And it includes a reference to the board game “Blizzard of ‘77” which, if you didn’t grow up in Rochester, you may not know. I feel sorry for you.

There is, as we say in Oakland, hella comic firepower in Moms are Nuts. My little piece is between the covers with work from Emmy winners, magazine editors, comedians, TV personalities, bestselling authors, and a Fanilow. You’ll recognize a few names from the Still in Rotation series here, like Wendi Aarons and Lisa Page Rosenberg, and the cover was designed by the next S.I. R guest poster, Mary Laura Philpott. (Check out the bloopers from the cover shoot. Philpott is the best kind of weird.)  To be included in this book is kind of intimidating, especially since the cover blurb is from none other than Laraine Newman, yes THAT Laraine Newman, who had this to say about Moms Are Nuts:

“These essays are so good and so funny, it makes me mad that I didn’t know a lot of these writers. Wait…that’s the kind of backhanded compliment you’d get from an obnoxious mom! Curses!”

I’m so excited and proud to be part of this collection and I hope you’ll check it out, on paper, on an eReader, in an interpretive dance format (we’re still working on that.) Since no one in the world buys a book unless it’s recommended to them anymore, we’d sure appreciate your help in spreading the word, posting your reviews to Amazon and Goodreads, all that jazz. This would make a perfect Mother’s Day present for anyone whose mother has ever said to them, “You look washed out. Put on some more lipstick.” Not that I’m speaking from experience.

And to make it up to my mom, I’m posting the song that she had cranked in her car CD player last weekend when I went for a visit. Because she loves her a cowboy.

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Sturdy

Chairs

Last weekend, I spent twenty-four hours at an Episcopal retreat center in the heart of Sonoma County, along with other women from my church. It’s an annual retreat, and every year I hold a vague intention to attend, until ballet driving, dinner invitations, concert schedules etc. fill up the calendar and I stay home. Sixteen years running.

But this year, one of the organizers asked me to make a thirty minute music mix for the Saturday night, which works on me like raw steak works on a lion, and that invitation was enough to rouse me from my torpor to register. Even then I couldn’t commit to the whole weekend. Driving north from Oakland under threatening grey skies, I arrived just in time for Saturday lunch, and the four hours of unstructured time on the agenda that followed.

Here’s how I spent mine: sat in my spare, comfortable room and read The Goldfinch, uninterrupted, for two hours. Took a nap for an hour. Then I pulled on my rain jacket to find one of the many hiking trails that criss-cross the property. It sits on a ridge in Healdsburg, overlooking the vineyards of Dry Creek Valley, next to an organic dairy.

It is a sign of either the duration of our drought, or the fact that I’ve been in California for a long time, that the rainy, foggy, drippy weather was perfectly fine by me. When I moved here from the East Coast I missed that muffled sound of Yankee winter, the low blue light and the crack of cold air. If I were to move back now, I’d miss neon green moss dripping with moisture, gnarled Sleepy Hollow trees, and soft, persistent fog. It wasn’t raining, but within five minutes my glasses were coated with mist.

Trees

And with each step I took down a path that cut its way through a field covered with exuberant green shoots of grass, I felt lighter, less closed in on myself. I may get out and hike with the dog in a city park full of redwoods most days, but even there I can still hear the planes overhead, the sirens on the highway, trucks grinding their gears as they climb uphill to reach Skyline Drive. I think it’s quiet on my weekday trail, but only in comparison to a busy street corner.

Usually the city noise that filters through suits me fine. I find it reassuring. I’m not very good at being silent and reflective (my childhood nickname: Aunt Blabby.) You’d be surprised how much I find to talk to Achilles about during our walks. It is so much easier to yakkety yak, than to sit quietly with the shy thoughts that skitter away at the slightest interruption.

But up in Sonoma, out on the trail, the loudest sound I heard was the rain when the wind shook it from the pines. Between the quiet, the rest, the reading, and the walking, I had an unusual sense that my chest had expanded and my head was lighter, like I could think more clearly. And suddenly one of those shy thoughts was right inside my head, saying: You pray for the wrong things, kid.

Because I pray all the time. Not in a down-on-your-knees, renting-of-garments kind of way, but more like a thread in my internal monologue, prayers for help and prayers of gratitude, trying to keep them in equal measure. What was the right thing to pray for? Who knew? It was time to eat in the big retreat Dining Room again so I couldn’t stick around to ask. And maybe I didn’t want to.

On Sunday morning, toward the end of the retreat, we paired off with a prayer buddy and were invited to share our thoughts, whatever they were, after the weekend of reflection. In 0.003 seconds I was surprised to find myself sobbing into the arms of one of our church’s grandmotherly matriarchs, confessing that most of my prayers were pleas to God that my children be more this way or more that way, to protect them from this and from that. The weight of guilt, that I don’t spend more time just being grateful for who they are right now, thankful for their well-being instead of worried it will be taken away from us, kept pressing the tears out of me.

The grandmother looked at the quivering wreck in her arms and said, “Nancy. What you need to pray for is sturdiness. You need it, to withstand what parenting asks of you,” like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Not to pray for things to be the way I wish they would be, but for the strength to withstand it when they aren’t. She went on to say that her prayers now are all of gratitude. “Because I’m old, and I never could have imagined what a wonderful life I’d lead.”

So as the Lenten season gets underway, I’m trying hard to remember three things. To take a few moments every single day to be still, really silent, and listen. To pray for sturdiness in myself, not change in everyone else. And to remember that some day, this imperfect life with all its dings and dents and problems will be the same one that I look back at in wonder and gratitude.

Also: I have finally found the Kryptonite to my music mix skills: a church women’s retreat. I had quite an eclectic selection queued up, only to realize that my joke song in the third spot, “Singin’ In the Rain,” was the one that got everyone to their feet, singing and dancing. “More show tunes!” they yelled to me. Show tunes? Aside from Adele Nazeme and the cast of Wocked, the Show Tune cupboard on my iPhone is bare. Thankfully the retreat leader was fully prepared and took over, and I slunk off in shame.

That is, until one of the older ladies took me aside and said, “What was that first song you played? I just loved it.” Vindication, by way of Ben Lee and “Whatever It Is.” (And a h/t to my friend Maitreya who told me about it in the first place.)

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Hold On To Sixteen

There was weird numerical symmetry in the air when I was a teenager.

When I was sixteen, “Jack and Diane” was released, with its lyric “Hold on to sixteen, as long as you can…

When I was seventeen? The Stray Cats with “Sexy and 17.” I was un-sexy and 17, but SHE was sexy and 17, so I lived vicariously.

Eighteen: The Footloose soundtrack. Humor me: it was movie about a bunch of seniors, like me, fighting the Man for their right to throw a dance. I emerged from that movie, walked across the parking lot to Eastview Mall, and bought a replica of Lori Singer’s pink dress, then waited patiently for seven months for Senior Ball and a date to arrive. (Settle in, you’re going to want to watch all 6:42 of this.)

At sixteen and seventeen and eighteen, I had that proprietary teenage mix of confidence and naiveté that led me to think, of COURSE they’re writing songs about the age I am right this second, because this is the best age you could ever be! Everyone wants to be my age because it is fully awesome!

Then I turned nineteen – one year beyond the veil of adulthood. And Paul Hardcastle released “19.”

Welcome to adulthood: now your age-specific songs will be about death and war. If I were going to string those songs together onto a mixtape, I’d title it Changes Come Around Real Soon Make Us Women and Men.

My oldest daughter turns sixteen today, and this is what I most want to say to her: don’t rush through these next few years. Sixteen is the age when childhood and child start pulling apart in earnest, when you look up the road a piece and see Adulthood sending alluring, come-hither glances. You don’t want anyone to think you’re a kid anymore, and you’re mostly not. As a parent, it’s delightful, as in, full of moments overflowing with delight, to see the clearer contours emerge of the woman you’ll be. Your dry sense of humor, your quick intelligence, your analytical mind are all things that I know I will treasure and rely on when we are both in the “grownup” category.

But I can wait a little longer for that. And I hope you’ll realize Adulthood isn’t all driver’s licenses and no curfews. That what looks like an enticing look from Adulthood may be, in fact, Adulthood trying to unstick a wedgie or do a mental calculation of how much property tax is due. Don’t be too quick to lose your goofiness, your focused and passionate attempts to win a spot in the Guiness Book for daytime pajama wearing, your ability to relate so well to the little kids you babysit.

It’s fine to be an Adult, once you get used to it. But you’re going to be an Adult, God willing, for a long, long time. Don’t dance away from being sixteen, or seventeen, or eighteen too fast.

No matter how good the music is.

Old Enough to Drive for Real Today

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Song Sung Blue

Song Sung BlueThis is a hard time of year for a lot of people. Whatever struggles and challenges and sorrows you may have during the other eleven months get pushed through a sieve of forced cheerfulness in December, which can just make things worse. I’m a big believer in acknowledging Blue Christmas, taking some time to sit still with reality, and feel it, and maybe even have a good cry over it until you feel a bit better. Or until someone feeds you a Christmas cookie.

When it comes to triggering a good crying jag, I turn to music. I cry when Sarah McLachlan sings to shelter dogs, when Heart sings to Led Zeppelin during the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, and when old men sing tenor on church hymns. When I go to concerts, I pack tissues alongside my ID and beer money because you never know.

There are three sad songs that stand out for me because they function like the simple on/off circuits we all made in middle school science class. They start, I cry. No buildup necessary. I’m sharing them today in case you need to get things moving. Feel free to add your own songs sung blue in the comments.

Take care, and have a a cookie.

1. “Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ, on Two Thematic Ideas and on a Figured Bass by Tomaso Albinoni,” Remo Giazatto

Gallipoli, made in the days before we knew that Mel Gibson was crazy, was my favorite movie in high school because it was full of horseback-riding Australian men, the perfect vehicle with which to bridge my tweenage horse love into something more grown up and worldly. I will give nothing of the World War One era movie away except to say that there is a scene of an evening before a battle that the movie audience and worse, all the characters on the screen, know is pointless. The tough C.O. with the heart of gold sits in his plain canvas tent and put this adagio on the Victrola, then sits down to write a goodbye letter to his beloved wife.

And every time I see this movie I think, oh my god, this guy has such a heart of gold that he actually brought his record player to the front? Now I love him, too, even if he’s neither cute nor on a horse, and I’m weeping, his offscreen wife and I both drowning in our tears over the threat of losing him. The violins, string, and sad, sad organ play on as the camera lingers lovingly on all the scared cute Australian soldiers, now horseless but not like that was going to help them much anyway given the odds, and also who wants to see a horse die in battle. It all adds to the exquisite pain inherent in this song.

2. Breathe Me, by Sia

Four words: Six Feet Under Finale. If you watched it, you know that the last five minutes of the HBO series, scored to this song, both telescoped and tied up the story lines for the characters we had grown to love during its five seasons.  Each quick vignette on the screen was timed to perfectly to leverage the quiet inhalations in the song, the plunk plunk plunk moments where tension builds, and finally the orchestral sweep that brings it all home and had fans thinking, now what will I do on Sunday nights?

My husband and I watched the show together religiously, but he was travelling for work during the finale and it was before we had installed the technology to capture and view important cultural moments on our own timetable. I watched the finale alone, on my couch, in the dark, sobbing and throwing used tissues on the ground until I had my own little paper snow pile of sorrow.

When it comes on the radio these days I listen, thinking: oh, Nate. Oh, David. And oh, Ruth, flawed matriarch who despite her shortcomings loved her children so hard. Sob sob sob.

3. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole

The moment: kindergarten graduation, 2003. The venue: our eldest daughter’s kindergarten classroom, where we parents were wedged uncomfortably into chairs that only came up to our kneecaps. Just looking at the assembled group of 22 children, with their jack-o-lantern smiles and bedhead and tiny shoes had me feeling sniffly, aware our kids were already on the downhill toboggan ride that is growing up. When the teacher instructed the kids to hold up folded paper on which they’d drawn Hungry Caterpillars, forty-four parents and guardians smiled. She then recited an original poem that echoed the Eric Carle children’s book, talking about all the knowledge the children had gobbled that first year of school.

Then she said, “And now you are all butterflies flying away to First Grade,” and the adorable kids unfolded their caterpillar drawings to reveal the colorful, loopy butterflies they’d drawn inside, and fourty-four parents and guardians, plus one teacher, fell into catatonic states of weeping. THAT was when the children started not just singing, but using American Sign Language, to sign Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the Bruddah Iz version. When my second daughter performed the same ritual three years later, the only thing that made it any easier was that I had packed my purse with tissues in advance.

By the time the first “oooooo-ooo” of this song hits my ear drums, all I can see is how fast my children have grown up, flying like butterflies into middle school and high school and beyond. It sends me into paroxysms of grief.

Although, let’s be honest. Once they leave the nest for good, it’ll be nice to be able to weep in peace without fear of them catching me and saying, “MOM! Are you seriously crying again?”

***

Here’s another song that makes me cry this time of year, but not for the reasons you may think. I’m over at NickMom this week, talking about the results of overexposure to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

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Life Lessons from the Nutcracker

  Nutcracker snow

For civilians, the first strains of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet started leaking out of store Muzak and into your consciousness the day after Thanksgiving. For ballet parents like me, it’s been in constant rotation since September, when the two underage dancers in my house started rehearsing for the big performances, coming up December 14 and 15. You think YOU’RE sick of hearing Waltz of the Flowers by December 10th? You have no idea.

Still, I love this ballet, and I love the entire time-consuming, repetitive, dramatic project that is staging a student performance of the Nutcracker every year. Because it’s taught our entire family a thing or two about a thing or two.

1. Reaching your full potential takes bold vision. During the “House” scene in Act 1, Herr Drosselmeyer opens three big boxes to reveal a dancing bear, a dancing dog, and a dancing cat who proceed to act out a sweet if vaguely disturbing interspecies love triangle. I liked that scene fine, until a dad who had clearly been volunteering backstage for a few hours too many confessed to me, “Just once, I’d like to see the bear come out of the box, look around, and then just freakin’ maul Marie and her entire family.” Now that I have a vision of what could be, I just can’t be satisfied with what is.

3. Be polite to everyone. In that same first house scene, three children are given Nutcrackers. Only one, Marie, really gives a sincere thanks to the admittedly creepy guy who wears a cape and character shoes. Ninety minutes later, that same child has taken a psychedelic journey to Candyland and is being feted by Bon Bons, Spanish dancers, Arabian dancers, and a slew of men in tights, while the less effusive siblings are stuck home in bed snoring away. Good manners always pay off.

2. Sometimes it’s not you. It’s the ass costume. My eldest daughter is playing Mother Ginger this year, the lady in the big skirt under which tiny dancers flow like sand fleas. The costume is a big architectural challenge to put on and dance in, and one of the teachers cryptically explained to my daughter, as she struggled into it, that it’s an “ass costume.” The meaning was left unexplained. But I interpret it as follows, on behalf of my daughter and her lovely, strong dancer’s figure: sometimes you will try something on and no matter how lovely and strong you are, it’s just not going to fit comfortably. Don’t take it personally: it’s not you, it’s the ass costume.

4. Everyone’s got a story. For a few years, my friend Glynis and I worked at the ticket booth. She sold new tickets, I handled distribution of Will Call tickets. We looked forward to this because, in theory, it gave us four or five hours over a single weekend to sit together and chat. The problem is that no one ever said, “May I have my tickets? Thanks!” Instead, every single person who bought or picked up a ticket felt compelled to explain to us why they bought it, where they had driven from, how their friend they were picking up the ticket for might be a little late, what they’d just eaten for lunch. They must have mistaken the ticket table for the StoryCorps booth. Still, they always seemed pleased to be heard.

5. You can’t pick your kids’ passions. I took ballet for a year, when I was six, in the basement of a bowling alley in Rochester, so it never really occurred to me that my kids would be dancers. When they were little, we cycled them through various sports and activities, as you do, waiting to see what stuck. Then one summer day, Glynis’ twins’ invited my kids to try a free class at the dance studio where they were both so involved. Five years later, Glynis’ daughters are long gone onto other pursuits, and our kids are there five days a week (seven days a week in the month before the Nutcracker.) It’s amazing to see what they’ve accomplished, considering how clueless their parents are about the entire artistic dance form.

6. It takes hard work to make something look easy. Right now, my kids are dancing through pointe shoes at a rate of a pair every two weeks. Point shoes could be used to hammer nails in walls when they’re fresh, so dancing them into softness and then actually wearing holes into them takes hours and hours of work. All the kids are working their butts off, well past the point of it being fun anymore and far into the Magical Fairyland of overtired goofiness and bunions. These girls may look like delicate snowflakes onstage, but they’re tough as torn toenails underneath.

In fact, I think they’d give a rampaging bear a run for the money.

Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned ballet in the produce section? Here are a few dancers from the Oakland Ballet (the company, not the school) dancing a selection from the Nutcracker at Whole Foods.

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