AFTER THE BALLET
How am I ever going to become a great ballerina? I have fat thighs and short arms, and sometimes I forget to reach, circle, tighten, or quiver along with the movement of my feet and body, and I hate to practice. I go to Ella Banks Studio of Dance, and sometimes Ella Banks is my teacher. I like the way her name feels in my mouth, El la. Her daughter also teaches, Ruth Banks; she’s married and has fat thighs. So does El la. Ella Banks’ hair looks yellow, not blonde, yellow. Yellow feels different than El la.
I’m the lead dancer in a tap trio of me, my sister, Sally, and another girl, Arlene. I’m the oldest, Arlene is the youngest, and Arlene’s mother doesn’t have a husband. Sometimes I tap dance solo. I did a military number at my last recital to the music of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and my costume was white satin with red and blue trim and something gold on my shoulders called epaulets. I wore a white satin cap shaped like the one my Mom’s friend, Anne, wears. She’s in the army, a woman soldier. They call them WAC’s. My Mom’s used lots of bobby pins to keep the cap from falling off my head while I danced.
She said, “Try not to lose any. They’re hard to get now with the war on.”
Another thing about me ever being a ballerina. I look ugly with my hair pulled back tight off my face.
Today I went to my ballet class right after school. Sally and Arlene do not take ballet. They used to. Once, in a recital, we were the flowers in “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker. We each had a different pastel colored tutu -pale green, yellow, and mine, pink.
My Dad is picking me up today. He usually waits for me downstairs from the Ella Banks Studio of Dance by the barbershop door right off the lobby of the movie theater on the first floor. Ella Banks Studio of Dance takes up the whole second floor above the movie theater on the corner of North and Pennsylvania Avenues in Baltimore, Maryland. Pennsylvania Avenue at North begins one of the colored sections of town.
Odelia is colored; she comes to our house once a week to do the ironing. Everything in our house gets ironed, even sheets and the towels we use to wipe the dishes. My Mom calls them tea towels. One time Odelia brought her little girl with her. I wanted to play with her, but Odelia wouldn’t let her play with me.
My Mom said, “Leave it alone. She’s younger than you, anyway.”
I see my Dad waiting by the barbershop. He’s not smiling like he usually does when he sees me. His large brown eyes in his thin, pocked face seem sad. He’s not telling me to hurry along. He’s just watching me with those big eyes.
The radio in the barber shop is really loud. And now that I’m by the open door, I hear the announcer.
“President Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia today.”
“Oh Daddy, what’s going to happen to us?”
Norma S. Tucker of Bethesda, Maryland, native of Baltimore, Md., retired after over a twenty-five year career in higher education administration. She served at a Maryland community college, a women’s college, in associations, and in university and international institutions. She is now fulfilling her long-time desire to write short stories, a memoir and essays with occasional ventures in poetry. She has participated in numerous workshops at The Writer's Center.