October 16, 2011

You can dance.

Like most little girls, I loved to dance. My Parents found my early interest in dance amusing. Often, when we entertained guests on Sunday afternoons—as Lithuanians do—a family member would play the piano, and I would take a spin on the living room carpet.

Suburban Chicago, 1962. I do my best to keep the guests focused on me.

My childhood obsession with dancing did not get beyond the living room. I was quite disappointed when my Mom barred me from enrolling in ballet lessons. She thought that ballet, and its little-girl trappings, would make me vain and would teach me the dangerous lesson that looks matter more than brains. She wanted me to be smart, not pretty. Mom had a valid point, but it's not one that I could appreciate as a child.

This restriction was especially hard because I already was a misfit at school. Our neighborhood, heavily populated by Sicilian immigrants, had few Lithuanian families. I did not speak English until I started Kindergarten. I wore glasses. My Mom cut my hair in a boyish style because she believed that keeping the hair short would make it grow back thicker. My Mom worked when all the other moms stayed at home. And then, ballet lessons were verbotten. I was bully bait.

Given the baggage, I had quite the laugh when I found this photo:

Kaunas, Lithuania, February 1930. My Mom practices ballet in her bedroom.

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