Last spring my daughter announced to me that she wanted to audition for the role of Clara in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. The auditions had already passed and I told her that we would consider the next year. We had seen the show earlier that winter and she had a dream. But honestly, I dismissed it.
But last month my daughter reminded me of that conversation. She had already checked it out and knew the date of the audition. She asked me to take her. I was hesitant. Mostly because I didn't know what her motivation was. Did she want to be Clara? Was she even ready for an audition of that magnitude? So I asked her:
Me: "Why do you want to do this?'
Daughter: "Why wouldn't I?"
Me: "I don't know what to expect."
Daughter: Shrugs her shoulders. Even if I don't make it, I got to dance in Radio City. When else could I do that?
Seemed all logical to me. So I didn't reject the idea.
As the days led up to the audition, I started to question whether we should go or not again. I talked with her openly numerous times about whether we should even bother. It seemed like an awful lot of effort for something that felt unknown. She was very matter of fact about it when I would waiver.
"Mom, I just want to go. I just want to try. Please."
My husband and I talked about it at great length. He thought we should let her try. After all, this little girl holds gigantic aspirations - she needed to know what she was up against. So the decision was made. We would go.
Then we got Osama bin Laden. That's right - the week that we finally got him after an entire decade, I would have to board a train and head to NYC with my daughter. My anxiety level was very high. I told my husband I didn't know how I felt about being in the City or on mass transportation with the fear of retaliation. I prayed that they would not release photos or videos. I prayed that President Obama would not be heading to NYC the same day as the audition.
When I called my best friend the day before the trip to tell her we were going and how uptight I was, she understood. But she also remembers that I am the "stuff magnet" - if some stuff is going to happen - it's going to happen to me. I told her that I should have tweeted the week that Bin Laden would be killed because obviously it was going to happen the week I was planning to go to NYC. That's just how I roll.
The morning of the audition it was pouring and would be pouring all day in New York City. That was my first discouraging thought. I said to my daughter,
"Maybe we shouldn't go. It is pouring. We are going to be standing in line for hours in the rain."
But she wouldn't hear of it. "We have umbrellas, Mom."
My husband, daughter and I drove to the train station and boarded. Shortly after boarding my daughter realized that she had forgotten her iPod. Now that may seem fairly trivial to some - but for a nearly 11 year old girl that was going to be on a train and standing in line for hours upon hours - it was more than disappointing. She began sulking and complained over and over that she had forgotten it.
So she does what any normal person would do when they are bored. She ate. She ate muffins, cheese and crackers, cookies all sorts of junk. Funny, I sat across from her on that train feeling completely sick to my stomach at the thought of this audition and here she was porking down everything in sight.
About an hour into the train ride my husband remarked that we had lost power on the train long ago. He was on his lap top and it had lost power. He finally said something after I commented how slow we were going. In fact, we were coasting. Then it happened.
We came to a complete stop on the tracks in the middle of nowhere. I felt a moment of panic. With the world in the state that it is and in light of all that had happened that week - my mind was flooded with all of the possibilities that caused my train to stop dead on the tracks.
I called my mother. I told her what was happening. Then I asked, "Is there anything going on that I should know about?" She knew what I meant. But nothing of any significance was taking place.
I texted Daughter's Godmother and told her what was happening. She texted back - "Wow. Everything happens for a reason."
We waited for the conductor to tell us what was happening. We heard him chatting with another employee when he said that they had been experiencing engine trouble.
Oh. My God.
I could not even conceive that this is where things were headed. I told my daughter - this isn't looking like a good day. First the unexpected downpour, the forgotten iPod and now the train had completely broken down. Her question, "Can I get some Peanut M&Ms?"
After many efforts the train was rolling but we were probably doing under 20 miles per hour. To go any faster meant we would lose power and coast to a stop. We were finally approaching Philadelphia around the time that we should have arrived in New York City. They told us that they would replace the engine in Philly. I started to worry about the time.
My husband turned to me and said, "It is out of your control, there is nothing you can do about it. Whatever will be is whatever will be."
We stopped in Philly for all of 10 minutes and we were off again. About twenty minutes later, it happened again. Then we heard the conductor say that they had decided not to change the engine. Are you kidding me? At this point, we had no idea what time we would arrive or even if we would arrive in New York City. I sat in my seat looking out the window thinking "I truly can't believe this is happening."
Finally they announced we would be arriving in New York City sometime around 1:30pm. We pulled into Penn Station and my daughter was still not dressed in her leotard and tights. So we took our suitcase into the public restroom like all of the other homeless people in NYC and she changed her clothes.
Then we headed out to the street. It was pouring. The taxi stand had a line that was unreal. So we all popped our umbrellas and started our parade up the sidewalk marching on to Radio City. We arrived at Radio City and were told that they would not be letting anyone inside for a half an hour and they sent everyone over to NBC studios to the Concourse to wait.
At this point, I had still not done my daughter's hair. After all, it was raining cats and dogs - why bother? I thought I would do it once we were in line or inside but it just wasn't working out that way. So...
We found another public restroom in NBC studios and I took our suitcase in. I set up a spot at a sink and began doing her hair. People were staring. I told my daughter - I think they think we are living out of a suitcase and I am bathing you in a sink. We laughed how there had been nothing glamorous about this entire day for going to such a prestigious event.
We walked back across the street and stood in line. The girls around us did not look like my daughter. We took note of their earrings and their make up. My daughter was scrub faced and had left her earrings at home. After all, neither of those things are normally appropriate for a professional ballet audition. But what did we know? We were in a whole new world.
They finally let us in - giving us all of the instructions about where to go. Only one Guardian was allowed to accompany the child. So my husband headed back across the street to NBC studios to await our return.
We were hoarded like cattle up many floors into a dance studio. There we found a table and were instructed to fill out two forms, attach her resume and head shot. Hmm. I had a resume. No head shot. I embarrassingly confessed that I had not brought a head shot. They assured me that it was okay.
We glanced around the room. All of the chairs were already filled. So we headed to the corner behind the piano. We watched the other girls take off their clothes. They were in all sorts of glitzy and fancy leotards. Hot pink. Red and gold. Royal blue. My daughter had worn black. Because that is the professional way to attend a ballet audition. But we started to question the decisions we had made. More girls entered and they had their hair down and in ringlets with a big bow worn "Clara" style. Daughter had hers in a bun. No flowers or adornments. Just a hairnet. We watched all of the glossy colored head shots being flashed across the studio. We didn't have one.
I watched her eyes sweep the room. I called her over to me. I reached into my purse and pulled out my blush brush and I ran it over her cheeks to give her winter complexion a bit of color. I took out the light pink lipstick out of the bottom of my purse and dabbed it lightly across her lips - just enough to accentuate her heart shaped mouth. She smiled and said, "Not too much, Mom. Clara is supposed to be a little girl."
Then I took the diamond earrings that my husband had given me for my fortieth birthday out of my ears. I put them into hers. I said, "I want you to dance like you are wearing $5,000 diamonds in your ears." She smiled widely at me.
She then turned her attention back to the room full of girls. They were warming up. Dancing, turning, kicking...each trying to out do the other. My daughter put her pointe shoes on. These were brand new shoes - never danced in. We bought them the day before. She had done a few press ups and releves in them but never danced in them. I asked her if she was okay. She nodded and said, "I'm fine." She warmed herself up in the corner hidden behind the piano from the whirlwind of activity that was beseeching that room.
She stretched herself. She pressed into her boxes. Then she sat down on the floor inside of my legs. We chatted and talked. She cracked jokes and acted like her regular silly self. As I scratched her back and rubbed her legs, she was massaging my calves. I finally asked her, "Are you nervous?" She said, "Not at all."
Right after that conversation, someone walked in and made an announcement.
"We will be taking the girls back shortly. The first cut will be within 10 minutes. Please don't cry or be upset. This is the nature of the business."
Then they called for the dancers.
My daughter stood up to grab her bag. I said, "I love you. Have fun!" But she slung her bag over her shoulder and got in line - she never looked back.
And then she was gone.
I stayed in my corner.
The room was filled with chatty moms and dads and dance teachers. They were all comparing notes. Talking about the last audition where they had seen each other. The last National competition their child had won. Talking about all of the summer camps they were attending that year. I slid down the wall to sit in my corner.
I had taken a book to read. I opened it across my lap and tried to read. But I just could not focus. My cell phone began to buzz. It was my husband asking what was happening. I did not have any service to make calls. I would try to stand in such a position that I could get enough transmission to send a text. I sent a text telling family and friends that she had gone in.
Then the next thing I knew - girls were filing back in a line through the doorway. I stood up and watched the doorway. I had prayed that she would just make it through the first cut. I saw their faces. Upset. Disappointed. Tears. All of the anticipation and excitement and hope was over in 10 minutes just like they had warned. I continued to crane my neck but suddenly there were no more. My daughter was not there.
I immediately blasted the text out to my husband that she made the first cut. The room was significantly less crowded now. But I remained in my corner behind the piano. In another 10 minutes, there was another line streaming into the waiting room again. More flushed cheeks. More tears. I could hear the collective exhale of the mothers. Those that exhaled in disappointment and those that exhaled that they didn't see their daughter. I watched. I counted their faces. Once again - my daughter did not return.
My heart began to pound. I watched the room clear further. I tried to count how many parents were still waiting but I couldn't tell. It seemed to me that there were possibly 20 or 30. But I wasn't sure.
I feverishly typed the next text while my fingers trembled. There was a group of mothers along the wall that were discussing past years. They were mothers of girls who had been Clara at Radio City in prior years. They were still in the audition. With. My. Daughter.
I tried to pull the book out again. Because I thought I might have a stroke. I had prayed for her to make it through the first audition. Making the 2nd and 3rd cut was exciting. But to be cut now would be so disappointing to have gone so far. My husband texted me - "No matter what happens now. She has got to feel great about herself." But I knew that the longer she was in that room the greater the disappointment would be when asked to leave.
More girls entered the room. More parents left. I counted. There were 7 adults sitting in the room. Seven. I walked over to another gentleman and asked,
"Are there more parents waiting somewhere else?"
He smiled and said, "This is it. Congratulations."
I returned to my corner and like magic there was cell coverage to make a call. I called my husband and then my mother. I told them where things stood. I was shaking and my heart pounding with exhilaration and disbelief.
As I hung up from the call, the announcement was made that remaining parents were invited to the Red Carpet Room to retrieve their children. It had been over an hour since she went into the audition.
I walked the hallway and turned the corner to see my daughter sitting with a small group of dancers. She was grinning from ear to ear.
We were informed that those were the final dancers to make the list. They would be taking measurements and photographs of our daughters while we completed paperwork. I looked down and began to read...
The final question on the paper?
"How would you like your child's name to appear in the Playbill?"
I went to grab my cell phone. No coverage. AT. ALL.
My daughter walked over to me. She bent down and pressed her forehead to mine. "I guess I danced like I had $5,000 earrings in my ears, huh?"
So now we wait. We know that she has made the final list. We know there are 9 on the list. We know that they are casting for 3 cities. We know that 2 Clara's are assigned to each city. The others are then alternates. We will know by August 1st.
She has once again taught me another life lesson. You really do have to play to win. All the makeup, fancy hair, bright leotards, and head shots didn't matter. It reminded me that appearances are deceiving. It boiled down to things much simpler than that. My little girl had a dream and she went for it. She believed that she could and she did.
When I have been asked about my daughter's dancing I have always said:
"If she is meant to dance, she will."
"All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them." ~Walt Disney