Winter. A weekend. 5 a.m. A typical Canadian family. …
The alarm clock is screaming at you, rudely interrupting the only really good dream you’ve had in ages and when you manage to wrench yourself out of your coma, the red numbers, glowing like evil eyes in the darkness, are telling you a time that is so blinkin’ early you just can’t comprehend. Much of anything.
But somehow you manage to get the whole fam damily into the SUV and you’re in the pitch dark drive-through lineup at Timmy’s and, yes, there actually is a lineup even at this ungodly hour, and you can’t really remember how you got there. And you’re the one who’s driving.
It’ll be hours before even the reluctant sun comes up and the arena will be cold and for a while and for the umpteenth time you’ll wish your little rotten kid had joined the chess club instead of insisting on playing hockey.
It’s just another typical winter weekend of family bonding call the hockey tournament. It is always in a town or city many, many kilometres away and it’s always many many degrees below zero. Oh, and of course, just for fun, a life-threatening snow storm is usually involved.
This is when one or more parental units enjoy hours of said bonding time with their precious charges, a bonding that consists of one or more of the little ones either sound asleep in the back seat for the whole trip, and/or complaining or arguing the whole time, or crying or asking “Are we there yet?” every three minutes or so.
All this as you drive white-knuckled through the stormy darkness wishing you’d checked the AMA road report so you would have an excuse to cancel the trip and stay in bed where you belong.
Of course, that all goes right out the car window an hour or two later when your little Johnny or Jane (or these days, perhaps Skylar or Moonbeam) is thrashing up and down the ice chasing a puck and having the time of his or her life.
You can see their 1,000-watt smile right through the face mask cage all the way from the bleachers where you sit with the rest of the bleary-eyed, Tim Hortons-overdosed parents, grandparents and other sundry relatives who are cheering every move their little Gretzkys and Wickenheisers make. Even if it’s just falling down.
Of course, it was a dance recital I attended this week that got me thinking about all this.
You may or may not know that it’s that time of year that makes hockey tournament time look like a walk (or skate) in the park.
It’s dance season. You may have noticed a veritable plethora of little girls, and tweens and teenaged girls and several boys wearing 15 times more makeup than their moms, and they have sparkles in their hair, which is usually pulled back into an onion-head bun, and they are all hanging out in groups at places like Earl’s.
These said dancers are in the throes of competitions and year-end recitals, whereupon countless families from kilometres around converge on arts centres and performance halls with a fierce intensity and competitive zeal to rival any hockey playoffs. These bunheads are ready to drop those sparkling white dance gloves at the drop of a hat. Good thing those sparkly bowler hats are pinned directly into the skulls of the dancers because it’s a real no-no to lose part of your costume during a routine.
Late spring. At 3:30 p.m. Friday. A typical Canadian family.
Your rotten kid or kids rush home from school in a panic, throw their backpacks with their homework into their bedroom, grab their dance bags and their makeup bags and their pre-packed suitcase with the pull-out handle and the rolling wheels and they wolf down a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza and pile into the SUV.
Because you have to be at the city and checked into the hotel by supper time because your talented child’s first performance is scheduled for 7:30 and she or he still has to get on 15 kilos of makeup (three kilos if he’s a male dancer) and squirm into the $300 costume with the sequins and the perfectly fitted accessories and exactly the right dance shoes, which Mom has been up all night dyeing just the right colour, and then spend at least 27 minutes getting the hair just right. And they have to do this for, oh, a dozen or so different dance numbers over the course of the weekend.
I know this because my Better Half and Yours Truly have been one of the most driven forces in the universe — Dance Parents — for many years now. Starting when my Rotten Kid, the daughter one, was not much more than two years old — a little sausage in a pink suit with a little tutu at her first dance class, standing in front of the wall of mirrors staring at her very first tutu and twirling her own baby version of a real ballerina. Watching her, we knew right then, the first day, that she was hooked.
And sure enough, we were on the road for the next 20 years.
She catapulted into the seriously technical and highly respected dance world in a big way in her first big roll. She was a frog.
On the big stage, there was a row of little frogs behind a big log and when it came time for the little froggies to pop up with their green costumes and green hoods on their heads, with their big muppet frog eyes on the top, my little Rotten Froggie just stared straight up at the coloured lights in awe the whole time, but never missing a highly-choreographed froggie move. Basking in the bright light of the stage.
Fast forward a couple of decades and a couple of thousand performances later at hundreds of festivals and recitals and professional shows covering a zillion kilometres or so and the Rotten Kid is still in the bright lights of the dance stage, only she’s at a university in a different province.
But I still see a little froggie, looking up at the lights and dreaming about being a dancer.
And for sleep deprived, caffeine-infused dance families and hockey families, doesn’t a moment like that make it all worth it?
Now, as for soccer moms? Well, they’re just plain scary.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.