Thursday, February 14, 2013

Part of the club

This whole school year, E has been participating in the school's Club. The Club is a mashup of cheerleading and dance team and color guard, maybe with a bit of marching band thrown in for fun. It's silly and it's energetic and it's school spirit and it comes with its own uniform. And if your hair is long enough, that uniform comes with a pom-pom ponytail holder. So you know this is serious business.

E has been attending weekly Club meetings and practices since the fall, coming home and bopping around, covered in poster paint, making friends across grades and school wings, thrilled with her Club. Yesterday was to be a big day. Today was the official big day. It was the first Club performance of the year, and at the upper school no less. The Club was going to perform mid-court at the high school girls' varsity basketball game, the last game of the season, to a packed, energized bleachers. But yesterday was the unofficial big day: it was the day that the Club members received their uniforms.

Well. We got it on her and my sweet girl began to have a panic attack. It's polyester and fitted. It was hot. It was itchy. It was too tight around her neck. She pulled at her throat. She cried. She couldn't speak. My girl who's always had sensory sensitivities and a long list of clothing rules was desolate. She couldn't fathom wearing the uniform. She couldn't fathom how she'd be allowed to participate.

Mama didn't learn to sew for nothing, and we made some stealth modifications for survival purposes. Once my sweet girl was calm, she said it was still hot, too tight, but maybe possibly there was a slim chance she could wear the uniform to school today and therefore perform tonight. She didn't want to wear it, but she really, really did want to dance.

She needed an ESPN lightboard. She was diagramming her dance for me.

We struggled a little this morning. She was anxious about the garments, the performance, her own excitement. It's hard to champion polyester, but I did my best. And at the end of the day when we got to the upper school, she was pulling and tugging and jumping with excitement, a mixed ball of nerves, nerve endings, and anticipation.

The evening was so much fun. She didn't sit with me, but rather with all her blue-and-gold friends. They cheered from the sidelines and jumped up and down and yelled and booed and sang. I watched her on the sidelines, a round face and braid in a swarm of happy little girls and boys. This Club has been a real club, fostering friendships and jokes and silly little games. And the performance was fantastic but that hardly even matters.

We got home just in time to celebrate her brother's birthday (more on that tomorrow) but just as soon as she'd given her brother the present she'd gotten him she told me she had something important to ask me.

Can you wash my uniform tonight so I can wear it again tomorrow?

I looked at her in shock. I couldn't even speak.

What? It's so comfortable!

I turned to the lovely husband and pulled him in front of her. I made her repeat her words to him. I needed a witness. He just laughed, of course.

Tomorrow's a Club meeting! And now that we all have our uniforms we can wear them on Club days! Please? Can I? I love it so much! And she hugged her uniform. She hugged herself.

She's a girl who thrives on experience. The big Club performance was always going to be scary until it wasn't, and there was nothing we could say to her to change that. But tonight was magical for her. She wandered the halls of the upper school. She danced with her friends and played hand-clapping games and invented cheers and made pom-pom wigs. She has a secret language of shared moments with her friends and I had the privilege tonight of observing it a bit from a distance. Tonight was the night where everything she hoped the Club could be through all these weeks of meetings came to fruition. Tonight was so transformative that she hugged polyester tonight and asked for more.

That's the power of shared experience, of friends who know you and love you for who you are, who help you hide the zipper ends of the back of your mock turtleneck because they know there's no way you'll ever agree to have that thing choke you all day. That's the power of being part of the Club.

I started the washing machine.

This post was brought to you by my ever-growing pride in my eldest's ever-growing confidence; polyester; and book club night. This month we read Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman. After being kicked out of her widow support group for being too young, Becky creates her own support group with an unusual twist. Join From Left to Write on February 14 as we discuss Saturday Night Widows. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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