Betsy was four the first year her mother enrolled her in ballet lessons. It was all right but she was pretty sure she preferred soccer and softball. The pale pink tights rode up uncomfortably and she didn’t like the way the wall of mirrors made the room seem so big and long.
She told her mom she wanted to quit her lessons but her mother insisted she wait until after the recital. A few more weeks wouldn’t kill her and the costume had already been ordered and paid for.
A few tantrums later, Betsy had to endure the preparations for her first public performance. The tutu was itchy and no amount of baby powder helped. Her head hurt from the tight French braiding she’d had to sit through at the salon. The hairspray made it a funny texture and sitting still so her mom could put on her makeup was torture. She looked like a clown.
Even though she didn’t want to be there, Betsy didn’t want to mess up on stage so she practiced backstage with some of the other girls. Older girls who looked a little less like clowns and whose costumes didn’t look quite as itchy were put in charge of telling Betsy and the others where they were supposed to go and went along to help when they needed to go to the bathroom.
Betsy only messed up three times on stage from what she could tell. When her mom snuck backstage a few minutes later she lied and said no one could tell from the audience.
“Can we go home now?”
“You’re not done yet,” her mother explained.
“Yeah I am.”
“There’s a little finale and ceremony at the end. We can leave after that.”
Betsy went back to the circle of chairs and picked up one of the dolls she and the other girls had been playing with while they waited.
All the girls were shuffled to the hallway, shown how they were supposed to do their bows, and pushed back on stage one last time. Then they were made to stand around while the instructors were given microphones and talked a lot.
Then Betsy saw the table four older dancers were shifting into position on stage. Her eyes widened as she saw that it wasn’t the table that shined but rows of trophies.
There were several different heights. Some had one figure frozen in a pirouette while others had one holding up a partner. They were awarded for achievements from five years with the dance studio to ten and even two fifteen-year trophies. There were at least a dozen smaller ones for students who put in the best effort or were the most improved.
They were infinitely better than the medal-bearing ribbon she had received for soccer or the pin she’d gotten when the softball season ended.
“I changed my mind,” Betsy said when she and her mom got into the car after the show. “I want to keep doing ballet.”