On the day of the dance, I took my several dozen cookies to the cookie table, then sidled over to the side of the gym where the fidgeting parents were waiting. Lots and lots of parents. There were cameras aiming and ready. The gym was decorated by the sixth graders themselves.
Then the music began. Bianca had told me that they were being graded on this dance and were required to dance every song but one. They rotated between boys ask girls, and girls ask boys. When the teacher would announce which kind of dance it was, the kids would move slowly, as if being pushed from the back of the herd, with deer-in-the-headlight looks on their faces. Then they would pair off and do their little dance and then split back to the boy/girl herds on opposite sides of the gym.
I watched with a little lump in my throat. During one slow song, I felt the edges of my eyes start to burn and quickly blinked away all physical evidence that it hurts a little bit that my daughter is starting to grow up. How is it that life marches on so eagerly, letting our babies pair off into dance partners? I blocked away the thought of the inevitable, that one day, much sooner than I'll be ready, our babies will pair off so permanently that they leave us and start building their own little nests. But wait, I'm not ready for that. My eyes are starting to burn again.
Because Bianca had been so secretive about who her crush was, I didn't know what he looked like until I saw her dancing with him. It was the last dance and the announcer had said just before the music played, "If there's a certain person you want to dance with, this is your last chance." Then they set the boys free to single out their dance partners. When I saw Bianca's face, I knew this was him. He was all bony shoulders and skinny legs as boys are at that age. They danced and smiled, and I smiled and loved seeing her so happy. She was beaming by the end of the song and when he escorted her to the edge of the dance floor, her eyes were shining. I guess that's how parents get through seeing their children flying away from their nests, knowing that they're happy. And that will be enough to make us happy.
|Bianca's 6th grade class before the Valentine's Dance|