What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a kid, the possibilities were without limit — an astronaut, a magician, a fire fighter, a pilot, a millionaire, a movie star, Mary Ann — oops, went off on a tangent there. But the answers were as clear as the options we colored in our coloring books or reported on in elementary school “show and tell.” Everyone wanted to be somebody. I wanted to be a ballerina.
The only problem was that becoming a ballerina meant going to ballet lessons as a little girl. And no matter how much I loved the tutus, how much I dreamed about pink satin ballet slippers, or how much I wanted to be the Sugarplum Fairy — I was painfully, painfully shy (hide-behind-my-mother’s-skirt shy) and the idea of taking lessons with lots of other little sugarplums-in-training was not something I could handle.
So I got my ballerina fix the same way I experienced lots of adventures (and still do) — through books. One that I particularly loved was Susie and the Ballet Family, about a little girl who spends the summer at the beach and gets to dance with a famous ballerina. (The fact that little Susie loved tuna sandwiches — my favorite — was like icing on the cake.)
At that time, seeing the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center was a dream come true. Watching the little ballerina inside my jewelry box twirl to music (I think it was Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago) was irresistible. And imagining myself pirouetting onstage en pointe was pure joy.
But even inner-child ballerinas hang up their toe shoes at some point (no pun intended), and the creative compass of my life pointed toward writing, my true north. Does the idea of being a ballerina still enchant me? Most definitely. The same way that the idea of being Tinkerbell enchants me. Not my real life, but lovely nonetheless.
© 2017 Claudia Grossman