In the fall, something was up. I would attend Curly's school b-ball games, bring a thermos with her dinner, her dance bag, a change of clothes, and a READY TO BOLT MENTALITY.
After her game, I'd review what I'd brought for her while jogging towards the door, DID I FORGET ANYTHING?
Curly: AH, I'LL JUST GO HOME AND EAT AND GO TO DANCING LATE. I WANNA TAKE MY TIME.
Me: (looks around the gym for signs of alien life, and a body snatching UFO) OH, OK.
When I asked when she wanted a private lesson, she'd respond with: I'M GOOD.
Never feeling the need to do more, I shrugged it off. Also, private lessons aren't cheap.
*her 'good' translated to good without one, but I was like I know you're good, but we usually do private lessons to get better, right? My guess is that on average when leading up to a major competition, she'd take a private every week for about 5-7 weeks (so 4 days in the studio vs 3, if you're counting), give or take. This fall, she only did one. ONE!
Mini asked me: HAS CURLY SAID ANYTHING ABOUT DANCING?
Me: NO, WHY?
Mini: SHE'LL TELL YOU WHEN SHE'S READY.
Driving to dancing one day after the boys had moved out and I was starting to focus on regular life stuff, I asked Curly what was up.
Curly: IT JUST ISN'T FUN ANYMORE. I'M READY TO BE DONE. IT'S KIND OF A HASSLE (is it now? you're just figuring that out?). I WANNA PLAY MORE BASETBALL.
I almost called out: JESUS, TAKE THE WHEEL - like literally, because who can drive when such exciting news is shared?
Then there were tears. Not mine, silly. I managed to refrain from shedding my tears of joy.
Poor, passionate, devoted, sweet Curly wept. She wept for her dancing teacher, Mary. She loves that woman. They have a special bond. Aside from dancing, Mary loves Curly-the-kid's sense of humor, great attitude, and extreme thoughtfulness.
Me: MARY WILL STILL LOVE YOU. I'LL GO WITH YOU WHEN YOU DECIDE TO TELL HER.
This conversation happened a month before championships. Not the time to announce anything. I thought she'd dance till the end of 8th grade. She clarified: NOPE, I'M DONE THE MINUTE THE BIG COMPETITION IS OVER.
You could've blown me over with a leprechaun's fart.
Then she took 3rd in the Midwest, after 9th in the nation back in AZ in July. There was no puking at the November competition. She was relaxed. I was relaxed. She danced beautifully, which she honestly does even when puking/nervous.
3rd was a personal best. Would she keep going? Attend another world championship, since the two prior were cancelled? Before the competition, I worried that she'd flop and then she'd stick with it just to end on a high note. I gave her some space after the competition, I mean not immediately - I was busy hugging the heck out of her.
A week or two later I asked if she still, ya know, wanted to walk away from this thing she's done since like age 3 or 4. She didn't even hesitate: YEP. I'M DONE.
Covid was ramping up. Christmas party cancelled. Classes bumped to zoom. Curly wanted the quitting conversation over with.
Jan. 20th I texted Mary: CAN WE STOP BY YOUR HOUSE (a hike) WITH YOUR CHRISTMAS GIFT?
She said no, she was heading out of town. CAN WE CALL YOU THEN? She sensed something was up.
Mary freaked: I DON'T LIKE THE SOUND OF THIS. I LOVE YOUR KID TOO MUCH TO BE HEARTBROKEN. I LOST 2 PEOPLE IN TH LAST 2 DAYS TO COVID, THIS WILL BE WORSE.
Remember the brat dancer, the one whose mother I hollered at? Well, Curly told this girl that she might quit soon. Brat girl leaked it. A teacher from a 'sister' studio hollered to Curly after she'd come off stage with her big ass trophy: YOU CAN'T QUIT NOW!
Curly: (insert nervous laugh) HUH? I'M NOT QUITTING.
Curly has too much class to say: THANKS EVERYBODY, DONE THOUGH. I felt it was inappropriate for that teacher to bring it up.
Me (1/20th): CURLY'D LIKE TO TALK TO YOU. CAN YOU FACETIME?
The scene: Mini sat off camera. I sat on the bed with Curly. When Mary popped up on screen, and said WHAT'S UP SWEETHEART? Curly started to talk, but had trouble with words. She whimpered.
I'M DONE. IT JUST ISN'T FUN ANYMORE.
I translate tear-talk, so I shared with Mary what Curly was trying to express.
Watching my child so heartbroken, well of course I wept. Curly sobbed, Mini wiped away tears. Reg decided to be cute . Tried to barge in and be silly, being 'that' brother , not getting that no one had requested comic relief. Mini was too close to the door to let idiot-brother-nonsense through. NOPE, YOU'RE NOT COMING IN!
The worst part: Mary wouldn't let her go. She poked and prodded. Acted angry.
Now, come ON. She sensed it was coming. Curly hadn't done a single zoom class. Big mouth had leaked it. I know this was a blow, but this is a child. A child who is making a difficult decision, but it is ultimately her decision.
Back up the bus: on the drive to Joe's funeral with Drizella and Anastasia, Ann was surprised when I explained what a relief it was that Curly had quit. WHAT? I THOUGHT YOU WERE MAKING HER DANCE?
*and in the movie version of my life, the frame freezes and I turn to speak to the camera, saying: EXHIBIT A, THIS MORON DOESN'T KNOW ME AT ALL. SHE MAKES ASSUMPIONS AND DOESN'T BOTHER TO LEARN THE TRUTH. HOW ARE WE RELATED?
Mary: JUST COME ONCE A WEEK. DIAL IT DOWN. IT'S NOT LIKE BASKETBALL IS PLAYED ALL YEAR.
Curly: I PLAY ALL YEAR.
Mary: BUT YOU COULD WIN THE WHOLE THING NEXT YEAR. YOU'RE SO GOOD.
It wasn't pretty. No way could Curly do something half ass. Dial it down? Have you met her? I told Mary before we hung up that I know this was hard and Curly not being able to hug her was extra hard. Mary just kind of held her head in her hands, looking defeated. I nudged Curly and whispered, SAY GOOD-BYE.
Curly (whispered): LOVE YOU, MARY. I'M SORRY.
She facetimes her BFF after the challenging phone call. Her BFF said: I MEAN, I KINDA GET WHY SHE'S UPSET. YOU'RE JUST SO LOVABLE.
I sent Mary a nice letter, saying how grateful we are for all that she is to Curly and how we want to stay in touch. I asked her to respect Curly's decision, because it wasn't easy. Mary texted me CURLY IS MY FAVORITE CHILD EVER. I NO LONGER WANT TO TEACH. I told her Curly would love to come help teach a class here and there. When classes were in person, I drove Curly to the studio and she gave Mary the gift. They hugged it out. She got back in the car sniffling, said she felt better. Mary told her that she'd always love her and that she isn't mad. Then we got ice cream. (obviously)
And that, my friends, closes a VERY lengthy chapter of our lives. I've had dancers for over about 15 years. No, I DO NOT MISS IT. Not at all. We had a good run. Lots of adventures. Enough to include in a book. Fingers crossed.
Basketball is keeping us pretty busy, but the 'costumes' are cheap, there's no leg tanning, there are sometimes scholarships, and my kid can do what she wants with her beautiful hair, which usually means wear it up in a bun.