Mary Ann (my notoriously self-involved neighbor across the street) has a daughter, Ria, who had been dancing at the same studio for a year of two before we joined. When it came time for team classes, where the dancers prepare to perform in a ceili for upcoming competitions, my kids and Ria were scheduled for classes that overlapped. As usual, car pooling to a studio 15 minutes away with a neighbor across the street made no sense to Mary Ann. Her parents typically arrived from across town each day in separate cars so that they could drive Mary Ann’s kids in different directions. Their assistance lowered Mary Ann's stress level - I guess, but she still managed to act as if life was next to impossible.
Mary Ann greeted me from her driveway one day. She wanted to commiserate over how difficult it was to shuttle kids in so many directions. I neglected to point out to her that she had four kids, while I had 6. Not to mention the extra two drivers (in the shape of her parents) at her disposal daily. Coach worked late four nights a week. I was left to navigate the after school activities on my own. The common ground conversation was short.
A few years after joining the dancing school, Tank was invited to attend an additional Irish dancing class, that would require me to make an extra round trip to the studio. I decided enough was enough. I told the teachers that I couldn’t pull it off.
The next day Mary Ann called me. She was offering to drive Tank to the extra ceili class. I almost fell over. Initially, I was pleased. What luck. Since the teachers offered boy lessons for free, I hated to refuse to participate in one of the teams where boys were required. Eventually Mary Ann's ulterior motive became clear.
Her sudden willingness to carpool was due to the fact that without Tank, the team would not be able to compete. The teachers needed one more boy in the under 9 age group to partner with a girl -or the team would not exist. Seven other dancers would be able to compete in this dance so long as Tank danced. Translation: Mary Ann's carpool willingness switched into high gear so that Ria could rake in another medal.
While ceili teams with all girls were a dime a dozen, competing in a 'mixed ceili' competition was more rare. It was only possible to enter a team in the mixed category if the teachers could scrape up enough boys to assume the traditional 'boy' role as partners with the girls. Ria was already dancing on the all-girl team (where girls were permitted in the 'boy' role in order to create a couple). If Tank could attend the practices, then the team could compete at Nationals in the less popular and easier to dominate 'mixed ceili' competition. Ironically, Tank was partnered with Ria.
Months later at the National competition in Nashville, Tank and Ria failed to grab hands during one of the partner switches. (To make this issue easier to understand for my non-Irish dancing readers: it would be similar to an Olympic ice skater failing to land properly after a jump). Panic stricken my eight year old son, whose nerves often get the best of him, turned to face Ria. He fumbled around until at last he grabbed her hand. His little freak-out made the small error more conspicuous and exaggerated. The team didn’t win, and Mary Ann ceased all conversation with us while in Nashville.
They are sweet, generous, kind, and friendly. A wise friend once told me: 'If you see crazy coming, cross the street'. Unfortunately for us, crazy resides across the street. We live in a 'no cross' zone.
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