Saturdays, I take my 4-year-old to what is affectionately termed “Creative Movement”- a beginner’s ballet class for preschoolers. It’s anything but creative- what with first position, second position and releves. The girls learn precision and details like pointed toes. Parents watch from outside the studio, sneaking furtive glances at their very pink progeny as they dance.
And I use that word- dance- lightly.
Mostly it’s like watching a herd of uncoordinated water buffaloes during mating season. Huffing, grunting, and banging the floor with anything but grace, they strive to copy their teacher’s movements and her enjoinder to use “pretty arms”.
Pretty arms they are not. My daughter’s are double-jointed, so when she attempts the slightly curved, soft ballet arms, she ends up looking like a puppet whose strings have been tangled. Or a broken flamingo.
My favorite part, however, comes near the end of the class, when Miss Emily leads them in practicing their “grand jete”. A felt “puddle” is placed midway in the studio, and the girls, one by one, get a running start and leap over the puddle in all their elephantine grace.
On the way back, they have to yell “GRAND JETE!!!” as they leap. It sounds something like this:
ALWAYS draws a crowd.
But as I sit there snickering into my latte and trying to hold back any audible snorts, I am struck by the passion, the dedication, and the un-selfconciousness that it takes to throw yourself through the air, the whole class watching, legs splayed, arms a-flying.
This is me, I think.
I don’t fly like Miss Emily. I don’t glide in, all elegant shoes and manicured nails. I don’t have the catchy turn of phrase, the pithy insight into humanity and the world. Mostly I’m navigating this world bewildered, shouting words in a foreign language, and I just know that God’s sitting in the waiting room, snickering at me over the NY Times.
In the end I don’t know how it works- if I stand before Him and he asks me why He should let me into Paradise, or if it’s some sort of movie night where scenes from my life are played and reviewed (God turns to the Spirit and says, “Well, I give her a thumbs-up for raising her kids right but her soup-kitchen service is less than inspiring..”).
But until that moment comes, the only way I know how to live this is to throw myself into it. Arms splayed, legs akimbo, leaping for all I’m worth, and yelling into the void. I may not know the words, but what else are we here for?