Dancing With a Ten Year Old Teacher
She told me once beneath the covers as we pretended we were in a cave high up in the mountains about the promise she made herself on her 10th birthday. She remembers it well. There in the vast expanse of that Chelsea loft, just after her friend’s mother berated her for dancing on the Art — oversized minimalistic bubble-ized clear plastic Art that would go to the museum the week following. It was there she said to herself “Don’t ever forget how much you know right now that people don’t know you know. Don’t ever underestimate a kid.” I imagine her smacking her pink tutu with a pout and giving a little “harrumph.”
Another time that same year, summer of 1982, on the roof with her father as the amber sun went down behind the blackened outlines of Empire State Building, she said “Remember this moment and don’t ever forget it. Don’t ever tell your kid she can’t be a dancer.”
She has never forgotten. Her mother thinks it’s because she can’t get past those silly childhood disappointments. I know she remembers them because she never wants to get past them. Because she told herself not to forget. She knew already that the only way to make sense of the world is to know that we must forget how much we actually knew once upon a time. That is what makes her her. I didn’t know her then, but I know that this is what has always made her her. I knew it the moment I met her and the moment I lost her. And I know she’s the same her now as she was then; just a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and a little bit dumber.
May she never grow up in a way that she forgets to see with the eyes of that ten year old. And may she still become the dancer she always imagined. Even if she has to dance in a way she has yet to imagine.
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