I smile widely, uncontrollably, as I watch, ignoring the wind swirling dust all around me, blowing my hair into knots. I stand on a short wall to avoid the cigar smoker who stepped in front of me moments before. A better view is an added bonus. I watch as weeks’ worth of practice come together, choreographed steps and shouts meld as they dance their way into hearts, engaging and entertaining the audience. Some of us knew to be here at the appointed time, others just happen to be strolling the outdoor mall and have found an unexpected treat, a flash mob of costumed dancers.
I try to take in the whole scene, the group of familiar faces and bodies, the ease with which they’ve learned to work together, to trust each other through a performance. But my eyes are drawn back time and again to her, to my daughter, to her fluid and sure movements, and the obvious joy of the dance in her. Suddenly, probably rather predictably, tears spring to my eyes. My lips quiver and my smile is gone. The familiar feeling returns, the one that sends my stomach roiling and my mind reeling. This sensation was so familiar to me during her final two years of high school. It was also likely the main reason I usually sat alone watching her onstage in a dance, choir, or theater performance. Really, who wants to sit near a lone, blubbering mom anyway?
But the words would always run through my head and my heart, and I could not stop them, or perhaps I simply did not want to. In fact, I wanted to jump up on my chair and shout them to everyone in the crowd. I never did because of, among other things, fear of a forced exit accompanied by stern security personnel. Despite the familiarity of the sentiment, I always felt caught off guard. I still do. I hope I always will.
“Look at her, people! LOOK AT HER! She is ALIVE! She didn’t want to be for a while there. And she tried, as much as she dared, to not be. But look at her. She has worked so hard. WE have worked so hard. Do you see that beauty in her? The talent and passion? The determination? The courage? To you she is just another girl up there, another performer, a face in a crowd, maybe indistinguishable from those who surround her. But know this: that young woman ~ my daughter ~ is a triumph, a warrior, a courageous soul who has fought darker demons than most of you have ever seen or dared to imagine. And she’s ALIVE, people. She almost died. But she didn’t. She’s here. And she’s alive.”
© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013