Jack Makes His Debut


jack dressed up for debut

I recently had a podcast interview with a mother who has (like me) suffered the loss of a child. Also like me, she is living with this reality in her best possible way. It can be so refreshing to talk with someone about grief. Not too many folks are comfortable with the subject.

Death makes people uncomfortable.

Suzanne and I have responded to and managed our grief quite differently. The beauty in our connection is that I can totally see how her journey has worked for her and she sees the same in mine. Neither one of us endeavors to tell the other how to grieve, what is right or what is wrong.

Because nothing about the grieving process is right or wrong. It just is.

A piece of my grief experience is the panic driven desire to keep things the same. There is no logical reason for this but in the early days, months, and years I wanted everything to simply stay the way it was on the day she died. Entering our eighth years since her death we still have a red winter jacket hanging in the kitchen and her 2016 dance costumes on the railing in the front hall. The wall in the bedroom she shared with Gracie is still covered with her decorations.

She would have changed them by now.

Once her friends started graduating and truly moving along in life this idea of keeping things the same became easier to let go of. I have been able to move physical things into the barn or have given them away. Furniture has been replaced, carpets pulled up, beds taken apart. Things are moving along in a more consistent way now. We are growing.

Along comes Jack.

He is so well known and loved by those who know and love us that when he showed an affinity for Molly’s tiny tap shoes, we took him right to Concord Dance Academy. A full year younger than all of the girls in his class he jumped right in as if he had been there all along. He loves it. Returning to dance with Jack has been wonderful.

It has also been emotional.

A part of us is recreating a reality that belonged to Molly and Gracie. CDA and Miss Cindy will forever be a thread the fabric of our lives. Jack’s piece, however, is an entirely new thread. I feel like Rip Van Winkle sometimes, walking through a familiar yet foreign place after a long sleep.

It is recital weekend.

So much of it remains the same. The chaos, the pizza, the excitement. The logistical reality of the dress rehearsal is no different than it was in 2005 when Gracie danced in her first recital. It is a well-oiled machine. Many of the adults remain the same. Miss Hillary, Miss Cindy, Mr Dodge, Celeste, Miss Anna, Miss Maria, Miss Meredith, and Mr Lambert.

The players, however, have changed.

Jack is new enough to dance that I am only slightly familiar with the parents of his classmates. I look around at the tables full of dancers and room moms. Sparkly costumes? Check! Make up applied just right? Check! Shelby, Peyton, Meaghan? Their moms Maureen, Stephanie, Sarah? Hmmmmm, no. No check here.

All new faces, and the familiar ones are the big kids now. This year’s seniors were in 5th grade when Molly died. The current thirteen-year-olds were just six. As I let the familiarity of the evening wash over me, I had a moment of panic. Should I be doing this? Should we have Jack follow in Molly’s footsteps? Is all of this ok?

Yes, because I think of Gracie.

She is still here. This place and all it gave to and took from her remains relevant in her current life. Jack, her very alive little brother is following in her footsteps as well. His very alive sister Gracie’s footsteps. She dances with him in class. She runs him out on stage. She is his person! I went back stage and stood in the wings with Cindy. She motioned me right to the front. The precise spot I had occupied 18 years prior.

I had to push Molly on to the stage.

She was sitting, and remained that way throughout the entire number. While Jack was mostly motionless, he did muster a few moves. He was terrific. As we sat below the stage in Governor’s Hall with all the other little dancers after his number, we reminisced a bit and marveled a bit. It seems like just yesterday Gracie and Molly were right here and at the same time it feels like Jack is miles away from his senior year.

The days are long but the years are short. This I know to be true!

Way to go Jack! Happy Tapping!

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