Last week, I turned 32. Those numbers still don't seem real, in relation to me, but I'm working on it. I'm thinking of throwing myself a big party next year, for thirty three, but I'm pretty sure that's another one of those things that sounds better in your head then it winds up being in actuality (you know, like pretty much every big party ever?), so for now it's just a 'thinking of'. I'm trying to be honest when I say that there were a lot of times I didn't think that 32 was a year that would apply to me - I mean, sure, when I was a little kid, thirty whatever seemed like "Ok, when I'm 3X I'll be a grown-up" and I had some vague notions of where I'd be and what kind of life I'd be living (read: nowhere near the life I am actually living right now). But in the past 10 years or so, as my diseases have taken more and more of who I thought I was, and presented me with a whole new set of challenges to face, there were more times than I'd care to admit that my thirties seemed to be a goal that I might not make.
And yet, here I am, two years into them. Still facing all sorts of challenges, still not where I'd hoped to be, but Still Here. Which is the most important part, when it comes right down to it.
For my 32nd birthday, I spent the day at my niece's first dance recital, which is - for me - a huge deal. Because I was a dancer for 13 years, and an assistant instructor for three years, and this is the first recital I've ever been strictly an audience member for. (Well, that's not actually true, I'd just rather forget about my other experience as a member of the audience: the year after I got sick, the year I had to quit dancing, I went to my former school's recital and tried to watch the show. I felt heartbroken, sitting there, barely able to walk unaided anymore, watching all my former friends dance the solos I would've danced and receive awards I would never receive and between holding back my jealous tears and the loudness of the music, I wound up with a migraine that left me incapacitated for the next three days. It was not a pleasant experience.) But this time it was different: I was there to enjoy myself, to cheer for Lil Girl, to clap at all the steps I knew were hard, even if they didn't look tricky.
Lil Girl did great - she had a big smile the whole time, she and I talked about being the tent-pole (the tallest dancer, middle of the line) and how it means you have to hold your pose the longest while you're waiting for the curtain to close, and we both watched the older girls dances with glee, so I hope this will be just the first of many recitals of hers I'll be willingly sitting in the audience for.
I also got to re-choreograph numbers in my head, and move things along at a better pace, and basically pretend it was my dance school's program, and how I'd make it better. (One of those vague things I thought I'd be doing in my thirties, if you'd asked me twenty years ago was operating a dancing school with my sister(s), just another one of those dreams that got put up on a high shelf a lot of years ago). Remembering years worth of selling wrapping paper and window clings and random candy bars in order to pay our way into competitions, I bought raffle tickets from the dance company girls, and won a basket full of coffee & other things I don't drink and quickly divvied it up between family members. I took pictures that came out blurry because you can't use your flash, and I remembered just how invisible the crowd seems from the stage when the lights are blazing in your eyes. And although I missed out on the post-show Chinese food, a tradition that even my brother remembered fondly ("Remembered? It was the only part of the whole thing I had to look forward to" was his response), I still enjoyed it very much.
It was a great way to celebrate a day I wasn't sure I'd make it to, and I'm still not sure I know how to deal with (numbers don't really matter so much, sometimes. Until they do. And when you're thinking of how much you want to be a mom, those numbers are all of the sudden much more important than they ever were before). And while all my brother could talk about (on the times that his little angel wasn't on stage, that is) was how much of a rip-off it was that the tickets cost $15 a piece and the costume was $65 and all some of the kids were doing up there was "playing ring a round the Rosie", I remembered how much fun it was to be the teacher in the wings, while the three-year-olds you'd been teaching for nine months, and you were sure weren't going to anything approaching an actual dance step, finally figured out how to link hands and make a circle. And, ignoring his statement that "clapping only makes it go on longer" , I applauded as much as I felt like it.
Here's one of the less blurry shots of our tent-pole girl, in all her glory: