The Lady of Culture

Jeanette lined us up in the backyard before we set out on our daddy/daughter excursion to the Music Center for a day of culture.

Blue light reflected from the stage and bounced onto her snowy skin. The corners of her mouth lifted slightly as the pas de deux began. Clara and the Nutcracker locked their arms and glided gracefully across the stage. Jordan sighed and leaned her head against my shoulder. She grabbed my hand and interlocked our fingers. Act two was nearing the end and the music swelled with cymbal-adorned crescendos. The Nutcracker spun Clara, lifted her high to the sky, and embraced her while snow fairies waltzed upstage. I turned to Jordan, whose face was alight with inspiration, and I asked her, “wasn’t that lovely?”

Her eyes widened. “That was awesome.”

When the couple returned to the stage to take their bows, Jordan sprung to her feet shouting “Brava!” She also shouted “Bravo!” I told her it was customary to just shout for the prima ballerina. She told me she liked to compliment them both, and so she shouted again, “Brava-Bravo” as if it were a compound phrase meant to leap from the tongue in tandem. It was a beautiful thing. We had an afternoon we both will remember for many years to come.

Though I enjoy the ballet, I’ve never been partial to The Nutcracker. I find it has a bit too much syrup. But I realized a couple of months ago that I had never taken Jordan to the ballet and The Nutcracker seemed a logical way to introduce her and have a good father/daughter day out. As luck would have it, The Kirov Ballet came to town, which gave me the added pleasure of taking Jordan to the place where her mother and I met – the very building that housed the steps where we stole our first kiss. Jordan was thrilled by all of this.

We made a full day of it. We lunched at The Music Center before the show, then caught the matinee. When it was over, Jordan was ready for more, so we strolled over to MOCA and took in the Bourgeois and Kippenberger exhibitions. She wasn’t so sure about the art, but we had a fine time walking the galleries.

As we drove home, Jordan was very quiet. At first I thought she was tired, but then I realized that she was deep in thought. I asked her what she was thinking.

– I would really like to do ballet.
– Well, let’s get your legs stronger first.

She was quiet again. In the silence, I thought about the way she reacted to the performance. She was engulfed by its lavish spectacle, inspired by its whimsy, absorbed by the proficiency of its dancers. Like many little girls that day, she was hooked on the ballet. And like many other little girls her mind had turned to doing it herself. I imagined she dreamed of herself as Clara. She loves to dance.

And then I questioned my own logic. I told her that her legs would have to get stronger before we could enroll her in ballet class again. I suddenly felt myself a complete dimwit. Maybe what Jordan needed was a contrarian point of view. Maybe ballet class is the very best thing for her. Perhaps it is the challenge she needs to heal. She never shies from a challenge. The chemotherapy has damaged the nerves in her legs so much that her feet turn in sharply. The ballet dancer learns the art of turnout. Maybe a disciplined focus on turning her feet out will help her avoid surgery. Maybe. Jordan is a soul with limitless possibilities. For this I am thankful.

I looked over at her, riding quietly in the car, staring out the window, and I told her that I loved her. She broke her stare and smiled back at me. No words or anything mushy, just a brilliant smile. A few minutes later we were playing a game–assigning names to passersby on the street. As our creativity grew ever more wild, she giggled and left her contemplation behind. When we arrived home she wasted no time changing into her favorite pajamas. She told her mom all about the day and then surprised me with a giant hug. We held each other for a little longer than usual before she skipped away. From the next room she called, “thank you, Daddy. Love you madly.”