Monday, December 17, 2007


When I was in elementary school, the BEST days were when they would hand out those recycled paper catalogs filled with books you could order. I would circle almost every book in red ink and beg my mother, insisting that I might die of ignorance if I couldn't have them all. She usually made me whittle the list down to like three books. What an ogre, right?

Anyway, the best of those books to arrive was As the Waltz Was Ending, by Emma MacAlik Butterworth. This was a book sent to me when they somehow put an Anne Boleyn book out of print and thought I might like a substitute about a little Austrian ballerina. Turns out I did like it. Butterworth described in beautiful narrative detail her training with the Austrian ballet before World War II turned her life to poop.

I wanted to be a ballerina. I practiced barre exercises like Butterworth described, alone in my room holding the book and leaning on my bookcase. I always wanted to go to the ballet, to watch the young women and pretend they were her. I thought I would have secret insight into their bloody toes and aching thighs.

Almost twenty years later, I finally went to the ballet! I went to see the Nutcracker yesterday, and it was exactly like Butterworth described it! When the toy dolls came waddling out of those boxes, I felt like I could feel them in there, holding their breath and getting their eyes ready for the stage lights. When the Arabian dancers slid around the stage like they were on ice skates, I felt I knew exactly what the other dancers were thinking as the puffs of wind brushed their faces just off stage.

When I got home last night, I wished I could re-read my book to live it all over again. But it isn't here with me. It's hiding in a box in the closet at my parents' house far away. Instead, I'll just stay up all night Christmas Eve and pretend again that I am an eight year old girl in Vienna, about to take my first curtain call.

1 comment:

Valtastic said...

I loved the scholastic book fairs... I'd buy so many books with my paper route money. :)