In Ian Falconer’s Olivia and the Fairy Princesses (Atheneum, 2012), Olivia spurns being a fairy princess ballerina because everyone wants to be one. She says she is “trying to develop a more stark, modern style.”
I love this page with a deep and abiding passion because Olivia’s stretching limbs and contorted face mirror how I have felt being a writer at home with small children. Martha Graham, the dancer whose “Lamentation” Olivia tries to emulate, did not dance for beauty but to challenge and reveal the parts of us that cannot be communicated in words, the angular and pin-sharp feelings that have no clear expression.
The world of writing at home with small children has no clear expression, except to say that it is not unlike dancing inside a large sleeve of stretchy material that moves with you and against you at all times, often starkly. One can hope for modern.
My youngest started preschool full-time last week. I kissed her and hugged her and loved her. After drop-off I sat in my car for a long time. I danced a little in my seat.
A happier dance by Martha Graham is called, “Every Soul Is a Circus,” which feels completely true.