Saturday, October 13, 2012

An End Girl's Broken Dream

My mother dreamed of becoming a dancer from the time she was a little girl. Somehow my grandma and grandpa found enough money to get her lessons, even though it was the middle of the 1930's depression.

My mother practiced all the time, even when she was tired and in pain. Her dance teachers said she had great promise. During World War II, my mother danced with a troupe that performed for our soldiers in the States. She was the youngest in the troupe and barely in high school, but she loved dancing with all her heart. Her dream was to dance with the Radio City Rockettes, and after high school, she signed a contract with the overseas troupe of the Rockettes to be an end girl.

What is an end girl? She's one of the two shortest girls in the troupe. So, my mother and the other shortest girl would be on either end of the line of dancers. Naturally, every dancer wants to be the center dancer, who is the tallest dancer, because every eye in the audience goes to her first, but my mother consoled herself that the end girls would stand out as the next most noticed girls because they were easily distinguished from the long chorus line of dancers. My mother's dream had come true. All her hard work had paid off, and she was on her way to the life she always dreamed of and wanted. My mother was over the moon with happiness.

But her boyfriend was not. Her boyfriend ripped up the contract and tore the blouse off of my mother so that she could not go back into the office to get another contract. Her boyfriend said he couldn't risk losing her to another man overseas, so he whisked her away to Arizona where they eloped. My mom thought it was SO romantic at the time.

Alas, she soon learned that it was not so romantic after all. The newly married, very young couple lived with the groom's parents, who were not pleased about their son marrying a dancer, who, in their minds, was a "loose woman," and they were even less pleased when she became pregnant, unplanned, five months later with me.

My mother told me that when I was born, she knew what real love was for the first time. She went on to have my sister sixteen months later. But my mom was not happy. She desperately missed dancing. Although she loved us, my mother was not cut out to be a mom. She just did not enjoy it. Years later I learned that, deeply unhappy in her marriage, my mom had fallen in love with another man when I was about four years old. My grandma talked her out of leaving my dad, and many years later, my grandma deeply regretted doing that.

My mom taught dancing on weekends to little girls. She even taught my brownie troop to do the can-can for a mother-daughter event, but some of the other mothers criticized her for having us flip our lacy, fancy slips up, just as you are supposed to do in the can-can. My mom did not like those small minded women.

Later, when I asked my mom to teach me how to dance, she told me "no." She told me that she couldn't have one of her daughters live the dream that she had given up; it would hurt too much. We had to find other talents, which turned out to be ok because my sister had little to no rhythm, and my legs are way too short to be a dancer.

When I was seven, my mom had another child. My dad told her that she had to try to give him a son out of gratitude that he hadn't kicked her out when she fell in love with another man. The new child was, indeed, a son, but it did not make things better between them. My mother had a horrible, what we now know, postpartum depression. A year later, when she was just coming out of it, my grandpa died. My mom was a daddy's girl, and she never recovered from this loss.

My mom spiraled down, down, down, and my dad responded by becoming more and more verbally and physically abusive. Our home life was a nightmare. My mom took valium; my mom drank; my mom hid in the bathroom and slipped notes to me under the door. Sometimes, when no one was home but the two of us, she would come out of the bathroom and pour her heart out to me. I tried to help, but I was a kid and then a teenager. What could I do? I listened to her, and I read the horrible romance novels that she had developed a liking for as a retreat from her miserable marriage so that we could discuss them, but, really, what is there to discuss in the average romance novel? Every, single one had some handsome, misunderstood, dark haired, romantic, rich man swooping in and saving the young woman from some brute of a guy. I could almost see the appeal to my mom, but I thought the stories were dumb.

Once when I was sixteen, I asked my mom to leave my dad, but she said, and these words still haunt me to this day, "If I leave your dad, then I gave up my dream for nothing." I responded that she could find another dream, but she told me that I didn't understand.

And to this day, I still do not understand. My mom ended her life two years later, and for forty-two years I've tried to understand why she didn't just tell my dad to "Go to hell." My mom died at age 39, a young woman. She never knew her children as adults, never knew her children's spouses, never knew her grandchildren.

My mom had so much to offer the world. She was smart, funny, talented, and, when I was a young child, full of life. She should not have been a mother, though I am grateful to have been born. In a perfect world, my mom would have seen my dad's ripping her contract and tearing her blouse for what they were, the actions of a bully, not a lover, and she would have gone back into the Rockette's office, head held high, in her bra, and signed another contract!

But this is not a perfect world, and my mom didn't sign another contract. My mom has been gone a long time. In my mind's eye I always see her dancing, and I am writing this so that she will never be forgotten.

Take care,


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