Red Bows

I danced that year with girls a grade higher than me in school. All year we prepared for the big recital in May. My favorite number was the tap dance. We were sailors, in little blue pleated skirts and matching vests, which our mothers made, worn over a white, sequined leotard. It was all topped off with a sailor cap, but the best part was the big red bows on my shiny black tap shoes. I loved my big red bows.

The big night finally arrived. I was smack dab in the center of the front row. And mom forgot my big red bows.

Oh, I yelled. I yelled and yelled!

“If you wear your biggest smile, no one will see your feet,” she promised.

Of course they’d see my feet! It was TAP! Did she think I was stupid? What difference did a smile make to my shoes? I was going to be a fool, and it was all her fault!

“Just smile,” she instructed me again, “and no one will notice.”

I would never forgive her, I vowed, as Teacher readied us offstage. I walked into those bright lights near tears and shaking.

The strangest thing happened. I heard my mother’s voice and I smiled, cautiously at first. The music began, and I smiled bigger. I loved that dance! I loved everything about it. I loved the music. I loved the sound my tap shoes made. I loved my costume.

My smile grew.

Then I saw something, two women on the front row leaning into one another, grinning from ear to ear, looking at me. They were smiling at me! I couldn’t help it, I smiled bigger. And bigger and bigger!

They started giggling, and so did I! I’ll be damned if my feet didn’t grow wings that day. I’ll bet silly red bows would have weighed them down.

1980

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