The last thing I expected, a boy, 10, outside the glass doors
of the ballet studio mirroring each plié and entrechat, his face
as studious as an engineer’s confounded by fulcrums and levers.
At home that evening he learned the five elemental positions
from his little sister, and the next week joined her class, the only boy
and nearly a foot taller than the oldest girl. And so I was the mother of two
aspiring ballerinas, one in basketball shorts and a pair of borrowed shoes,
the other in pigtails, purple chiffon and a pink leotard. What could I do
but peer through the glass as the weeks passed and his leaps grew
more graceful, his relevés taller, sturdier, his arms as elegant
as the curves of a silversmith’s prize kettle? That he would pirouette
was inevitable, that he would twist his body into improbable positions,
lean into the splits the way most boys lean into a pitch, bewildering.
But it was the girls, tiny and shuffling around him, girls
who would soon leap into his steadied arms, that steeled
me for the afternoon he would fall and fail, for a heart’s beat, to rise.