When I was about 10 or so, I was already in the business of Making Decisions About Who I Wanted to Be. At 10, that was a dancer. Soon after the decision was made, I soberly resigned myself to the idea that if I was going to be a dancer, I would have to dance, so I sad Mom, please? And Mom found me a studio in a town called Minerva, Ohio.
Minerva was, I don't know, like 300 hours from where we lived, or it was 10 minutes; no one can know when you're a kid. Anyway, Mom bought me a leotard and rearranged her schedule for probably the four-hundredth time since I'd begun the soul-search for Who Maria Was, around 8 years old or so. And for a few Tuesdays, we got in the car after school, ate a chicken sandwich from McDonald's, and went to Minerva to dance.
While I was kick-ball-changing in an overly mirrored room for an hour, Mom sat in the van down the street, reading the newspaper and, I don't know, wishing I had been a son? But she sat there every week. Because I wanted to be a dancer.
It took four lessons to figure out that this dance instructor was not as much in the business of teaching the art of dance and helping kids have a good time as she was in the business of dressing us up in the most disturbingly sexy leotards one could find for a group of pre-pubescent ten year olds. One look from my Mom and an earnest "Mom, this leotard gives me wedgies" later, we cancelled my enrollment in the rest of those classes.
I remember driving home from Minerva, pondering what my next life calling would be. It was fall, and "How Do I Live" by LeAnne Rimes was on the radio. It was in between afternoon and night - in Ohio in the fall, there really is no evening - and it was cloudy, as usual. I was mourning the loss of what I had been sure would be my true identity (dancer) and feeling simultaneously angry at my Mom for being a prude and at my dance instructor for wishing wedgies on everyone. You know, your general paradoxical angst. But in the back of my head there was a dull buzzing. A nagging thought. I pushed it away, because though I hadn't defined, it was making me uncomfortable. Guilty.
It was the realization that Mom had Given Up Stuff for this; that she had heard my "I must be a dancer!" cries and said, "Ok, Ria," and did research, and found a studio in Minerva, and signed me up. She sat by herself in a dark car for an hour and ate McDonald's for dinner. Then, when she found out it was the wrong place for me, she did the even harder thing and pulled me out.
To this day, when I hear "How Do I Live" on the radio, my heart shakes and trembles, and I can feel how powerful that is; that nagging thought that grew into Gratitude, and Love, for the most giving, beautiful Mom there has ever been. That song is for you, Mom.