When I was but a wee little monkey, I used ride my bike to the library every Saturday morning, a book bag hanging from the handle bar of my banana seated bike. We had a rule that I could get 10 books at a time (my sister and I were both bookworms, so limits were important, lest the entire young adult section of the Bear Canyon Library disappear at once).
A couple of times a year there would be parks and recreation catalogs waiting by the checkout station and I’d carefully slide one in my bag, careful not to fold the cover, not letting myself look at it until I was home.
I’d go home and climb the ladder to my bunk bed, catalog in hand, hoping my sister wouldn’t come into our shared room and bug me while I got first look at the catalog. I’d open to the table of contents and look for the sports and dance section and then I’d start to choose, to choose the class that would change things for me.
It is important, right now, to point out a few things. Thing the first, I was terribly shy and desperately unpopular in elementary school and junior high. I was poor (which is a major social disadvantage when you go to a school where almost nobody is poor), I was awkward, my mama dressed me funny (true story), and I wanted so much to be someone other than myself.
Thing the second: I was pretty convinced that I could be something other than desperately unpopular if it turned out that I was really, really good at something, preferably sports.
So, I’d read through the parks and recs catalog, carefully circling the classes that I was interested in (always, always, always ballet and gymnastics, sometimes soccer) while imaging that I’d start the class and it would be discovered that Ah! I was a prodigy! The best ballet dancer/tumbler/goalie ever discovered in the Tucson parks and recs system. I would be so good, so clearly talented, that I’d have to continue to take classes, maybe have to go to a special boarding school somewhere very far away in order to develop this prodigious talent. And then, boy, would those kids at school feel stupid for not liking me back when I was there. And, somehow, my family would also stop being weird and poor and my older brothers would notice me and my sister would disappear entirely (harsh, I realize, but you try sharing a room with a congenital slob for 12 years and see if you don’t find yourself wishing for their disappearance).
I’d read through the catalog, circling everything I wanted to try, and then I’d bring it to my mom, who would promise to look at it later.
I never, of course, got to take any of the classes. We really were that broke that $20 for a ballet class must not have been possible.I used to be really angry about it, that I never got the chance to see if I was any good at these things, that my mom never signed me up for anything. I still fell disappointment when I think about it, but now I also feel a bit sorry for my mom. It must have been hard to not be able say “yes” sometimes when your child wanted something that was a perfectly reasonable thing to want.
I’ve been thinking about this because we got the parks and rec catalog for our local town yesterday and I’ve already got 3 classes for myself circled and I’m already anticipating what the baby monkey will take (swim lessons for sure, maybe a dance class if I can find one for little guys). He is still too young for most of the kids stuff, but I like thinking about what he might take in a few years. I look forward to being able to say “yes” to him: yes to trying dance or t-ball or soccer or craft camp or whatever he wants to try.
Today is one of those days that the past seems to be painfully close and I feel a little silly for feeling sorry for myself. I am incredibly blessed and fortunate and my life has certainly ended up better than I would ever have expected, but I still wish I could have just taken some ballet lessons.