May Day

Today is the first of May and the beginning of my birth month. Last night I dreamt of Grace, a woman much loved and admired by my youthful self. I was sixteen when her first child was born, and I was made Godmother to this baby. In last night’s dream, she gave birth, as an older woman, to another child and, in my dream, I was helping her to care for this child.

The real Grace called me “twinkle toes” when I used to stay with her in New Orleans. I would take the bus into the city every weekend to study ballet with Lelia Haller. There was a lovely balance about this arrangement. My time in her home with the beautiful down to earth Grace and her baby boy was playful and sweet. I slept well in her home, ate pancakes shaped like animals and birds, and recieved comfort and advice when my twinkle toes stumbled over obstacles. Of course, there were obstacles, and times of anguish when I felt I could never measure up. The world I was braving was a competitive and exacting world. Still, I dreamt of effortless soaring  as a dancing star, and I worked terribly hard for an occasional word of praise. Frequent criticisms bruised my tender soul, and my push to be better left bloody blisters on my toes. Stressed tendons caused me to limp to the bus that would take me home to Grace.

Grace ran hot bubble baths that I might soak my grateful body, made milky tea and cinnamon toast to soothe the deeper hurts. There were often tears as I soaked, sipped, and nibbled. She listened and empathized, then told me stories of my teacher’s younger days, accomplishing the shift from misery to fascination. My impressionable mind was occupied by romantic imaginings as I drifted to sleep: Lelia Haller, first ballerina of the Paris Opera. Naturally, when I slept and dreamt, the dancing Lelia was interchangeable with the dancing Leif.

Dear Grace… Through the years I have often dreamt of you, and when I have, I have welcomed you as the woman whose generous  spirit and charming presence graced my younger days, but also as a reminder of spiritual grace. I wake up knowing that even now, as the aging dancer who continues to dream, I can find comfort and renewal through the gift of grace.

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