Confession #376: They took my dream
The moment is indelibly stamped, sitting in Dr. M’s office, gazing around for clinical tidbits to replicate in my doll hospital at home. I wasn’t sure what to make of the number of pothos vines she had draped around the packed bookshelves of her tiny windowless back office. This was a different kind of doctor than all the ones before.
They were discussing some particulars of my case. The situation of our lives obviously caused my mother deep distress and I can see how these regular talks with Catherine, even having to drive into the depths of Toronto itself to get to them, were of great comfort to her.
My memory just before this one is that my mother had noticed the ends of my fingers moving around in my mouth and broke away from the conversation to nag me about not biting my nails. I proudly admonished them that I was not, in fact, biting my nails, but using my canine tooth to methodically clean under each nail, a habit she had recently requested I increase in frequency.
They both reacted with mild adult horror but one or both of them could not fully contain their amusement, and I remember a moment of genuine warmth and connection between the two of them as their eyes met. I reacted with obvious glee and triumph.
This beautiful moment was quickly shut down of course, back to a model of propriety and single-pillared emotions.
I don’t recall which specific piece of medical information she was disseminating at the time, but later something caused my ears to perk up and I blurted out,
“Wait, does that mean I can’t ever take ballet?”
This was a long-standing topic of debate and confusion with my mother. One of my favorite times each season was the arrival of the local Parks & Rec catalogue, where I would pore eagerly over the weekly physical activities and creative explorations possible at the community centers for the coming months. I didn’t have an interest in ballet specifically until I discovered The Phantom of the Opera, and realized that I needed to have at least basic proficiency in this area of dance to achieve my dream role of Christine.
Jazz, gymnastics, horseback riding, swimming, and team sports were all encouraged, but for some reason my explicit desire to take ballet went from casual dismissal to a confusingly vehement resistance.
For years I heard two overlapping stories from her:
1) she had dislocated her hip as a teenager taking ballet and spent some miserable months of her life in traction recovering, and;
2) that ballet was horrible and full of injuries/negative pressure.
The confusing thing about #1 is that a separate piece of information I recall is that she had actually dislocated her hip on a set of stairs, not in ballet class. I think I asked her about this incongruity at some point, and got back something like, “Oh, well it was on the stairs getting ready for ballet class.”
My today self: did something happen to her at ballet class?
Back to the question of the necessary prerequisite for my dream, Dr. M leaned in and said softly to me something like, “No, sweetie, I’m sorry.”
I don’t remember what happened after I started crying in my chair, other than at some point my mother trying to comfort me with the reminder that I’m too tall anyway.
I wasn’t really in my body anymore. Existence was intolerable.
The adults had just taken the one dream that mattered to me at that moment, and the only thing I felt would ever take me away from my muted and disturbing life.
Fine, I decided not long after. Another way around this was to simply make enough money to be able to put the musical on, or become successful in some other way such that I would be able to buy my way in, and that would somehow make everything okay…