Two weeks ago, I had this feeling that I wanted to do something new. That night, I told Rich how I wanted to do something, maybe one night a week, or every other week. Something that was mine. But I didn't know what. A book club? No, I'm an introvert. I don't want to meet or socialize with new people. Photography? Any classes I've seen locally are for beginners. And there's the whole introvert thing again. I want to do something.
The next evening, the girls were playing with their Barbies in the doorway between the kitchen and the playroom while I washed the pots and pans from dinner. Something dance related was mentioned and I told them how lucky they are to be able to participate in an activity that they really, truly love. "When I was your age, I wanted to be a dancer. But my parents squashed that dream and signed me up for baseball instead." Allie's response: "Stop it, Mama. You're making me cry."
Of the memories I retained from childhood, surprisingly, one is from picking up my friend's sister at a dance studio. It was in the next town over, on the second floor. I don't remember how many times I was in there but I remember the old wood floors and the sunlight streaming through the large windows and little girls in pink tights and ballet shoes.
In the early 1980s, baseball was what soccer is today. In fact, there weren't any youth soccer teams in our area. If you wanted your kid to play a sport, you signed him or her up for Little League baseball. Tee-ball didn't even exist at the time. After a few years of Little League, girls moved over to softball. So I played baseball and then softball. I suppose I wasn't that bad considering that my last year, I was assigned to third base. Back then, your parents didn't ask you want you wanted to do. They were the parents. They made the decisions and you did what they told you to do. End of story.
Oddly enough, two days after that conversation, my youngest brother texts me and my brother, Dan, one of our Little League team photos he had found. I was at the dance studio waiting for the girls' class to wrap up when I saw it.
(I'm in the front row all the way to the right.)
In that moment, I suddenly decided to sign up for the adult tap class at the girls' dance studio. I still had some reservations but I realized that it matched exactly what I was looking for. If it was a perfect match, why wasn't I already participating? So here's the back story on the adult tap class. The dance studio created the class two summers ago based on interest. The class was successful so the studio continued by offering it during the dance year. September marked the beginning of the second year of the class. The studio and some of the other dance moms taking the class encouraged me to sign up for it last year but I balked because I felt too old to start dance and because of my knees. Without work, my running had become more consistent and I was afraid how my knees would react to tap dancing. I didn't want that to interfere with my running.
I have bad knees.
What does that even mean?
When I was a senior in high school, I dislocated my right kneecap during the simple act of suddenly turning. It was a school night and we were getting ready to eat dinner. I was walking through the kitchen into the dining room when a glass fell over in the sink. I turned toward the sound to my left but my right foot stayed in place and my kneecap popped out. Yeah, that was a fun night at the hospital.
During the recovery process (I was in a brace and on crutches for months), I learned that I have extremely high knee caps. Guys, I can't wear skinny jeans because the pressure on my kneecaps is so uncomfortable. Because of the position of my kneecaps, I am susceptible to dislocation. If I dislocate it again, I could need surgery. This is why I don't ski. I also have scar tissue behind my knee. I can bend my right knee at just past a 90 degree angle and that's it.
Part of physical therapy during recovery was to build up my quads to help keep my kneecaps in place. I had to "jog" on a treadmill during PT. That was before I could run and it wasn't a pretty sight. So, yes, running is okay and actually good. It builds up the muscles in my legs which helps to keep my kneecaps where they should be.
I'm not overly concerned with popping a kneecap in dance. Although I do need to be careful with my movements. I really just didn't know how my knees would feel because there are certain things that I just can't do. My knees really can't take any type of pressure. So no leg presses and no jumping up and down off of anything high.
I told the girls that before I would sign up for the class I needed them to teach me something so I could see how my knees would hold up. I asked them to teach me a Front Irish.
"Okay, so let me break it down for you. You're going to do this: Shuf. Fle. Hop. Step."
Shuf went fine.
Fle went fine.
Hop. Yeah, that doesn't feel so good.
"Maybe I need to do it fast and not in slow motion."
"You're doing good, Mama. You got it."
I Front Irished through the house and my knees survived.
My first tap class was Friday night and I think it went well. Yes, it was a little intimidating and I was super nervous beforehand. There are currently five others in the class (three of them are dance moms I know) and this is their second year of adult tap. I'm not sure who tapped when they were little but some of them danced and one of them definitely tapped (she's really good.) The instructor reminded me that I wasn't going to learn everything in one class.
Before class, I was asked why I finally decided to join. I told them how I had always wanted to dance (ballet and not tap, but that's okay) but my parents had signed me up for baseball instead. At the end of class, the teacher told me to go home, call my mom and tell her I had missed out big time.
I stood there not as a 10 year old in a pink leotard and ballet shoes but as a middle-aged mom in black leggings and borrowed size 6 tap shoes and smiled.