Four years ago, I was closing up my business to start working from home, a swollen belly in front of me full of everything I didn’t – and couldn’t – know. I cried a lot because I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t feel quite ready to say goodbye to the life I had built to embrace one I knew nothing of. There was great loss surrounding the ending of a business I worked so hard to build, one which was flourishing right when I had to change direction. There was excitement, but I was daunted more than anything — the baby in my belly feeling like an unfathomable concept rather than this living, breathing, flesh and bones daughter I would four years later be watching skip across a darkly lit stage, her pink leather ballet shoes scuffing the floor while tears streamed down my face.
“Do you want to make it a big deal?” Joel asks. “Invite grandparents, have brunch afterwards, give her flowers?” and I realise that for all the ways we’re different, we’re not where it matters.
Maybe it was the classical music, the notes of Swan Lake floating up like a dream, building to this crescendo of complete beauty, but I was overwhelmed with emotion watching my girl on stage, the past four years flashing by like quicksand. The mother standing next to me backstage leaned over and said, “It’s too much, isn’t it?” and I smiled at her with embarrassment before scanning the faces of every other woman there choking up over their daughter, just like me. I laughed and mumbled something about what pathetic messes we all were and she laughed back, wiping her eyes.
Maybe we are. Maybe we are pathetic messes. But maybe the world needs us. Maybe the world needs women who cry over wonky pliés and shy smiles and music that reaches every corner of her soul. Because what we’re crying for is love. And when we live in a world where brothers and sisters are slaughtered and hatred is rife and bombs are dropped and daughters are raped and sons are tortured, over and over again, since the beginning of human life on earth, tell me what is worth crying for but love.
“I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.”
― Mary Oliver
We invited grandparents, we gifted her a bouquet of flowers, we gushed over her afterwards at brunch-turned-swim-at-Southbank and even though I hope she remembers it, I have a stack of photos to show her just in case she doesn’t — How much she loved being in the stage wings, all dark but for the glow of the fairy lights on stage. How much she loved the last dance, shaking her hands and wiggling her hips, her signature smile creeping across her lips, finally allowing herself to enjoy it. How much she beamed when her grandparents spilled out of the auditorium, scooping her up in their arms, telling her how well she did, how proud of her they were.
But my favourite moment of all was when she was presented her medal on stage.
As the medal was placed around her neck, she looked up, searched me out in the crowd, locked eyes with mine, and raised her medal, smiling, and in that moment, I pinched myself that she was mine, that this was real. That I could be SO LUCKY a little girl sitting on stage in a pink tutu just wanted to find her mama and make her proud.
I bawled my eyes out while my father-in-law snapped the picture, unknown to me. I shall treasure it forever.
I’m proud darling girl. More than I could ever imagine when I was sitting on a couch four years ago doubting I had what it took to be a good mother.
I love you something fierce and that love makes me cry all the time. And honey, those fat, full tears, one by one, might just be the thing that saves this wretched world, in the end.
Because to break a heart open is a badge of honour worth wearing and if it means we weep backstage at ballet concerts and love too much and hold silly sentimental things so close it’s almost unbearable, then the world might just have a shot of sharing a common humanity — one that chooses people and love over power and fear. One which plants tiny seeds of hope telling us that love, always, will win.
Here’s to love and ballet shoes and sugar plum fairies and mothers who cry in the dark. Here’s to hope and broken-open hearts and celebrating good and finding light and working for peace.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.