It Was One of THOSE Questions. Or Was It?

by Luanne

From the time Marisha started at the Dance Academy in second grade until she graduated high school—and thus from the dance studio—I anticipated their June dance recitals with great enthusiasm. When I brought Marisha to the studio, I liked to stay and watch the classes through the glass window with the other moms.

4th grade jr. advanced jazz dance

In the fall, each class would begin learning the steps of their recital dance and the performance would begin to take shape in our minds. At home Marisha would practice her dances on the kitchen floor—one or two each for all her classes—ballet, jazz, tap, and eventually, lyrical.

I loved every part of it, even sitting outside one day every year from 4AM to buy tickets at noon. I’d bring a heavily laden tote bag filled with my students’ ungraded essays to pass the time, but would end up spending most of it chatting with the other dance moms.

My favorite part of the whole ritual, though, was tech rehearsal, held the day before recital. This was when I could see all the dances from the classes Marisha wasn’t in and watch the ones I’d been observing all year come together in full costume. The die-hard moms and I would spread ourselves out in the big auditorium, coolers of juice and snacks at our feet, costumes draped over our laps. I videotaped tech rehearsals. I was an obsessive videotaping dance mom, I admit it.

7th grade ballet, Russian solo in The Nutcracker

When Miss Colette (a made-up name) was pleased with the performance, her voice was honey-smooth. Sometimes a girl would do something unseemly, like sit down in the middle of the ballet rehearsal because she was tired of holding her position. Then Miss Colette wouldn’t raise her voice so much as crack it like a whip so that it stung the lazy or contrary. She was strict, but always fair and inspiring. There was no doubt that this show reflected her and it was going to be phenomenal. And it always was a great show by the next day.

When Marisha was in eighth grade, I sat in a short line of moms watching the stage during tech rehearsal. One of the mothers I didn’t know very well, but she was a friend of a friend who sat next to me. It was time for Marisha’s solo part. She came out dancing with such precision, strength, and passion, that clearly she was ready for this moment. Her dance was absolutely beautiful. I knew that, but I’m her mom, so I’m supposed to think so.

In the middle of Marisha’s dance, the mom I didn’t know leaned over to me. “Don’t you wish her bio mother could see her dance?” she said. It was like walking into an iron bar, momentarily taking my breath away. In that first second, I felt an overload of emotions. I felt pride that the beauty of Marisha’s dance was so apparent to someone else. I felt threatened, as if someone hovered somewhere out there who could steal Marisha out of my life. I felt shock because it was so unexpected. The phantom of Marisha’s birth mother conjured up when I was least expecting it—when I was reveling in the talents Marisha had been working on for years.

I felt something else, too—something that surprised me greatly. My eyes welled up with tears in that one moment because I did wish her birth mother could see what the daughter of her flesh, the daughter of her pregnancy, had achieved. I couldn’t have imagined that I would have a moment like that happen, and I certainly wouldn’t have imagined that I would experience that feeling. But with all my heart I wanted her to be able to share that moment, watching our beautiful daughter up on stage dancing with such grace and power.

Have other mothers-by-adoption (who have never met their child’s birth mother) had experiences like this?


  1. Lisa DeNike Ercolano says:

    Luanne, lovely, heartfelt and human piece. In fact, as the mom of a dancer, I have often wished Juliet’s birthmom (and dad, and extended bio family) could share in the pride and joy I have felt in her as she performs.

  2. Karen R. says:

    I constantly wish that her other mom could see her. I send pictures. Lots of them. It isn’t enough. The moments in between the pictures feel overwhelmingly important.

  3. There’s a poem in your story. Amid all those other emotions, you’re empathy for Marisha’s birth mom was transcendent …. so touching.

  4. OK, this is, like, the fourth time in a row I’ve teared up reading your blog!

  5. No one has ever stunned me in quite the way the other dance mom did you, Luanne. But I’ve had that same yearning so many times over the years. And what often accompanies it is wondering how much of what characteristic of which biological relative I’m seeing in Nina.

    • Exactly, Lennie! That is so true with both my kids. I try to figure out why I was so affected by her words, but I think it was because my mind wasn’ t originating the thought, if that makes sense? It was coming in when I didn’t expect it, like an intrusion at first. And then, after acceptance, a welcome intrusion.

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