I’m standing at the kitchen sink scrubbing drops of chocolate ice cream out of a hot pink ballet dress. The drops fell perfectly, right on top of the brightly bedazzled neckline that my daughter loves so much.
Annabelle puts it on daily and stands in the sunlight streaming through the back door. She watches the light bounce and dance off of the plastic silver of the dress. It lights up the room every morning while I make breakfast.
The light reminds me of her dancing, bright and beautiful and fresh.
She had her first dance class a week ago. A ballet/tap combo class for three through five year olds. The teacher is a bona fide ballerina who walks tall on mile long legs with muscles as taunt and strong as the pull is from dawn to dusk. I notice on the first day that she walks like a ballerina, with that special gait, the one where her toes point out to the sides instead of straight forward. Like she’s directing your eyes to the limitless beauty of the world around you instead of the limited space within yourself.
Annabelle has been ecstatic since her first class. Talking about ballet. Begging to wear her tap shoes around the house. Mimicking Angelina Ballerina’s every twirl as she watches in front of the TV.
That’s why I’m cleaning ice cream out of her tutu. She hasn’t taken it off. Not for days.
Of course, she’s taken it off to sleep and we didn’t let her wear it to church or when Colorado held on tight to the winter that never really came this year and dropped big, wet flakes of snow upon us three days before school let out for summer break. Otherwise though, she hasn’t taken it off.
I hear her sneak downstairs in the mornings to snatch it out of the laundry room and put it on. The rest of the house is still sleeping, tucked in tight and holding fast to rest but she, she is ready to dance.
I’m standing at the sun-soaked sink, scrubbing chocolate ice cream out of a tutu. Little drops of sweet summertime that fell on her ambitions and dreams.
A few moments before this, I had tried to put it in the washing machine. I distractedly read the care instructions before tossing it in and stopped short of following through.
“Hand wash only. Handle with care,” it had read boldly under the “3T” label.
If something has a size with a “T” after it, it should be painfully obvious to the manufacturer that whoever is in charge of washing the garment does not have time to hand wash things. Especially things that will obviously be treasures like a bright, sparkly, puffy ballet dress.
Children that are small enough to wear size “T” anything are small enough to have dreams and obsessions big enough to encompass every second of every day. There is no time to let things hang to dry.
The dark brown ice cream stains have surrendered and gone. Now I’m scrubbing some unknown drops out of the netting that is the tutu. I run it under the water and the flow falls through it like a sieve. My fingers scrub the fabric but it’s harder here. This fabric is nothing if not porous. It doesn’t hold the water long enough to soak out the stain.
I rub the mystery dots until they’re gone. No thanks to the water, it seems.
I’m struck by how it flows through the elaborate tutu so freely.
I’m struck by the mystery of something so ornate and full lacking the ability to hold water. It’s fussy and fragile. It’s full but weak.
It’s the same realization that mothers have all of the time. The realization that, like a tutu whose circumference looks wide and full, all of those ambitions and dreams that we had for ourselves are fragile and delicate.
We spend our childhoods twirling and dreaming of what we might become, basking in the glow of our own future and the bright promise of hope. In those days, our minds couldn’t comprehend anything but becoming exactly what we wanted to be.
Life can drop big, dark stains on those dreams, leaving them soiled and soggy. When reality challenges their fullness and beauty, we’re left to tend to them, to wash them clean and restore what once was.
The problem is, there’s no “handle with care” tag on that tutu in our mind’s eye, the one that we wore when we were dreamers. The one that fit us when we were confident and young.
There’s no one there to remind us that those dreams need care and tending and that time spent keeping them fresh is worthwhile. We see whatever blight has befallen them and think that these dreams of ours don’t deserve our time, that they're not as worthy as everything else demanding our attention. So, they get wadded up and left in a corner while the stains set in like poison.
Later this afternoon, Annabelle will put her ballet dress back on. She’ll crown it with a smile from ear to ear as she walks into the ballet studio with her teacher with the feet that are as long and straight and thin as the lines that you learn about in math, the lines that never end. She’ll walk in with her dress and her dreams on her little body.
The dress that I soaked only to find that the water flowed through every tiny hole in the skirt. Only to find that like childhood, it’s frilly, bouncy, full, free, fussy fabric can’t hold on.
Childhood can’t, but maybe its dreams can. They can hold on tight.
Maybe, in between the ordinary tasks of motherhood, we can remember what those dreams were. Maybe we can close our eyes and let the sun soak our faces while we remember the feeling of a tutu on our skin.
We can remember how it felt to twirl and dance and dream with confidence.
Maybe we can find a quiet hour, sneak downstairs and pull those dreams out of the corner they’ve been banished to. We can dust them off and put them on and we can dance the dance of a woman who hasn’t forgotten.
Maybe we can tend to the stains that have threatened the beauty of what we hoped for. We can handle our own ambitions with care because some things are worth the extra effort. Things like raising little girls who dream and remembering that we were once one, too.
Guest post written by Kelsey Lasher. Kelsey is a wife and mom to her three kids in her home state of Colorado. She is passionate about people, especially little ones in footy pajamas and the people who are raising them. She has been featured in the MOPS Magazine and glowliveaslight.com. You can find her writing about faith, family, and life as she knows it on her personal blog, or pick up a copy of her debut novel “Where Our Stories Leave Us.”
Photo by N'tima Preusser.