Catholic Motherhood with
Jackie Zimmerer

Additional articles by Jackie Zimmerer



For the Love of Dancing

Having four sons, I've spent my fair share of time doing things I never considered BC (before children.) These activities include attending numerous events, the purpose of which to teach youngsters to determine the quality then rank the offered specimens in the order of their appropriateness according to a given set of standards: some of the things my boys have judged over the years include hay, goats, sheep, heifers, and even lengthy evaluations of the south bound end of north bound dairy cows.

There have been hours spent sitting on less-than-comfy bleachers, chairs, or simply standing while watching games, plays or other events. Lately I've been sending my family off on Sunday afternoons to a friend's house as the handful of older boys taught younger kids how to use a welder all the while building a 5' X 10' trailer to raffle off for Relay for Life.

But one Saturday afternoon in late May I decided to do something completely out of the ordinary...for me at least. That day I attended the Cooke County Ballet Academy's yearly recital.

The stated purpose of my presence was to take pictures for our Homeschool yearbook. After all, I felt I needed a "reason" to attend something my kids weren't performing in. It took me quite a while to convince myself that it was okay to go watch to the dozen or so kids I knew who were to perform; I even had to throw in the fact that two of the teachers are also friends.

But I have to admit that there was a much deeper reason I wanted to be there. While I wouldn't trade my testosterone laden teens for anything in the world, part of me needed to be reminded that some moms get to attend activities that don't come with the smell of sweaty boys. Oh, yeah, there's also the fact that this overweight, out-of-shape, middle-aged mom used to love to dance.

As I entered the auditorium and chose an aisle seat towards the back, vague memories of mirror lined walls and Charlotte, my teacher when I danced as a young girl, made me smile. Was that really thirty-five years ago? Throw in the conflicting emotions about how strange it felt to be at a girl-thing after twenty plus years of raising boys and somehow I expected to feel uncomfortable. But oddly I felt as if I belonged in the darkened theater.

I noticed that there were still seats closer to the action, but since I didn't have a child on stage, I decided to let those who had spent months ferrying kids to lessons and rehearsals fill the front, reasoning that I didn't have an emotional stake in the afternoon of entertainment.

For once I was there simply to enjoy the show.

Soon the lights dimmed and the opening number began. I found myself delighted as the group of older girls, resplendent in their costumes, performed and I happily picked out the half dozen or so teenagers I knew.

Then the program moved to the wee ones. The first troupes of tiny dancers wore pastel tutus that seemed larger than the occupants of the gathered tulle circles. I watched with that specific tilt of my head and "awww" expression that comes at the mere sight of anybody that cute.

Group after group of miniature performers proudly showed off (with varying degrees of accuracy) the results of months of practice. During one number, a little pre-schooler stood frozen to the spot with a tiny finger in her mouth, staring at the audience, stage fright taking it's toll while the dance went on around her.

A couple of groups later a purple-clad tot fell, landing on her little backside. Embarrassment washed over the tiny darling who then stood up and cried for long seconds, before leaving the stage.

But it only took a moment until the little waif reappeared from the wings and assumed her place. As she did the crowd gave her a round of applause. With all the innocence only a small child can portray, she stood, tears replaced by a beaming smile as the girl looked at the delighted audience and clapped with us. Her classmates never missed a step.

The cute-o-meter pegged on that one, friends.

Watching this scene, suddenly tears came to my eyes. A little part of me was crying for the oh-so-precious dancers, but, truth be told, part of me was deeply experiencing the feelings that are a result of the fact that I've never had a daughter. Another, very secret section of my heart that I almost dismissed was remembering how wonderful it felt to dance.

But my sad reverie didn't last long. How could it when wave after wave of dancers filled the stage? I couldn't stand to be morose when such beauty filled my vision. No, these little ones weren't mine, and I'll never have a daughter, but I found myself delighted all the same. Besides that, I wouldn't trade my boys for all the dance lessons in this world.

Well, most days anyway.

Nearly two hours had flown by when suddenly an unexpectedly costumed teenager appeared on stage, followed a few measures later by her teacher and several other students. I wish I knew the terminology to describe the graceful moves that were being played out in front of me but words alone could never effectively communicate them.

You see, that first young lady was in a motorized wheel chair.

A look of delight transformed the student's face as she instructed the six-wheeled machine to dance with the music. She was radiant, for, at that moment she was a ballerina.

Even though her body remained restricted to the device, her heart conquered her disability as she coaxed her chair to do pirouettes and move gracefully to the choreographed routine. Sometimes she required a bit of help from Stephanie, her teacher, but always the girl held her head high, remaining the star of the stage.

The whole crowd was mesmerized; for that couple of minutes infirmity disappeared and endless possibilities emerged as the performers moved gracefully. The teenage girl whirled and gracefully glided in unison with the others to the strains of music...and my heart was forever captured by one beautiful dancer in a wheel chair.

All too soon the recital was over allowing Moms and dance teachers to heave a sigh of relief. It seems anticlimactic to report that the yearbook pictures got taken, one of my best friends experienced the joy of watching her five year old Granddaughter on stage and the rest of the performances were delightful.

As I walked toward the stage to find and congratulate Stephanie, several of the young girls were being presented flowers by their admirers. My heart, already uplifted by the events of the afternoon, received another boost as two of the youngsters in our homeschool group proudly showed me the bouquets of wildflowers they received, picked and presented by the greatest admirer these young girls could ever imagine: their Daddy.

That day, part of me realized that I don't have to avoid girl-stuff...having a daughter isn't a prerequisite for enjoying the feminine things of this world. In addition, the Lord added another chapter to the "I don't have to be perfect to enjoy life" lesson: tiny dancers in pastel circles of gathered tulle, youngsters in multicolored costumes, a teenager in a motorized wheelchair and a middle aged Mom who has raised four sons all have something in common: the love of dancing.


Copyright 2004 by Jackie Zimmerer


Jackie and her husband, Albert, have four sons, ages 21, 17, 16 and 14. 

For information on having her speak to your group, Parish, or conference on issues that affect Catholic Moms/Wives or about Homeschooling, email Jackie at [email protected] Recommends