One Thursday evening, in a small, dated kitchen, in a cold, neglected hall in the distant land of St Bees, as Ben 10 waged a ferocious battle against Vilgax (me entertaining Joel), I heard a gentle murmur emanating from the dance room which progressively grew louder. It grabbed my attention. While Ben 10 was being beaten within an inch of his life, I was distracted by the increasing volume of chatter, and, more importantly, the repeated mention of two words. The Show. The Show. What was this ‘Show’? Should I be interested and, more importantly, should I be worried? I had vague memories of my mother going to a ‘Show’ to see her cousin’s granddaughter perform. If this was indeed the same show, I immediately felt relieved and accepted gratefully that this didn’t concern me since the dancer my mam ventured to see was a) then a teenager, b) had been a dancer for over ten years and c) was clearly able to dance. On the other hand, Abigail was a) still very young and too small to be seen without the aid of a telescope from a reasonable distance, b) only able to recall after each dance lesson that she had sung about Humpty Dumpty sticking banana skins down people’s pyjamas and c) blatantly unable to dance. Just as the sigh of relief escaped my body and my shoulders began their descent into a relaxed position, a parent nearby looked at me and smiled almost sadistically: ‘The Show is for everyone!” Well I disagreed! The Show wasn’t for everyone. It wasn’t for me. I couldn’t do hair, I couldn’t do make-up and I couldn’t sew. So, in the words of a Dragon in the Den, I was out. Maybe next year, when Abigail had stopped singing about dirty fruit skins and could dance a perfect solo from the Nutcracker, maybe then I would consider The Show.
Needless to say, Abigail was in The Show. Being able to dance was apparently not a prerequisite! Thus, ahead of me were a whole new list of challenges to overcome. The first was the trying on of the costume. Apparently I was trusted enough to judge from a sample which size my daughter should wear. Size 2 was extremely big. Size 1 was very big. Size 0 was still too big. Where was I supposed to go next? Did they do negative numbers? They didn’t, so I guessed it would have to be the purchase of a stretching machine and excessive force feeding to solve this particular conundrum.
The costume was acquired. The force feeding had worked and her pot belly was proudly on display for all to see. Within seconds, the next trial presented itself. A loose bow. Which needed to be attached. By me. It did become attached but rather unsuccessfully. There was obviously a hidden weight in this devil piece of fabric, as it looked like an unbalanced pair of weighing scales hanging from her dress. Next, socks needed to be purchased. Who knew there were so many variations of white socks? Plain white. Plain white and ribbed. Plain white with a frill. Plain white with a holey frill. I resigned myself to the fact that I would inevitably buy the wrong ones, so I certainly wouldn’t be buying a spare pair of the wrong ones!
The day of the dress rehearsal finally arrived. Armed with my wonky bow and incorrect socks, I considered myself almost show ready. Except my daughter wasn’t. She was ill. Of all the bloody times! But with my show inexperience, I couldn’t face the show blind. I needed my own personal dress rehearsal. So I plied her with Calpol and carried her to the Civic Hall, prepared for a fresh onslaught of information.
New intelligence was acquired and show day soon arrived. Abigail had recovered but the next examination presented itself – the hair. Abigail didn’t have much and she needed perfect, curly bunches. My approach to this was rudimentary to say the least. No hairspray, no curling tongs, no styling product. I attacked her hair with a water spray bottle, twiddled the wild tentacles round my uncoordinated fingers and hoped for the best. As it was, her hair sprung up so much it was drowned by the sea of blue that were her hair scrunchies and her unruly curls were hidden away.
Once at the venue, after ensuring her make up was applied by someone else other than me (Ian’s reaction on seeing the photo: ‘why does my daughter look like a hooker?’), I abandoned Abigail to total strangers without sustenance, refreshments or any form of entertainment for the next three hours. Another rookie error.
It was then that the juices in my stomach began to churn, as the moment was soon approaching where my daughter would find herself on a strange stage, at the age of 3 ¾ in front of rows of unfamiliar faces and dazzling lights. What the hell had I done?
As it was, Abigail seemed to spend the entire dance asking herself ‘where the hell am I?’ And, as she was on the front row, in the centre and clearly the smallest, her persistent look of bewilderment was plain to see. She was constantly looking around, seemingly surprised to see familiar faces surrounding her. Every now and then, there would be a flicker of recognition as she would point wildly in a random direction two beats behind the others or jump clumsily two beats ahead of everyone else. She subsequently adopted the persona of a rugby player. With her chunky calves, she kicked her leg out as if attempting a goal conversion or with the newly acquired physical presence of her enlarged stomach, she would side step into her neighbouring dancers, pushing them out of her way, as if looking for a gap through which to make a break. Then before I knew it, the dance was over. There had been no big smiles, no pointed toes, no high chins or no relaxed shoulders, but I was the proudest dance mam in that room and all the trials and tribulations were immediately forgotten.
Until the next time.