Aria was presented with her 5 Year Award this past Saturday for Dance – and, of course, the second they called her name – I did what all parents do when we look from our kids to the calendar and back again and wondered just how the Hell that happened so fast. This blog will attest, I HAVE NOT been asleep at the wheel this past half-decade and yet, somehow she slipped that one past me. Well, I firmly intend to slow the next 5 years WAAAAAAY down. I reckon I’ll fill up a 500-gallon pan of water, set it on low and just stare at it until it boils. That ought to show Father Time!!!
Of course, ’tis folly. I’m her Dad. I can chase away all manner of things that go bump in the night. I can squeeze myself into the tiniest little chair for a spot of tea with her and Hello Kitty. I can come flying across the house in a moment’s notice to squash a bug or help her guide Mario past Bowser in World 8-4.
But there is NOTHING I can do to stop time. Can’t freeze it. Can’t even slow it down to that nice Southern drawl I always like to wax poetic about.
Heck, Saturday marked one year ago – almost to the day – that I took the stage three quarters of the way through her Dance Recital; dressed alongside 17 other doting Dads as the true ‘Boss’, Bruce Springsteen – as we declared we were Born in the U.S.A. The cliche holds true. That seems like only yesterday.
Yet, there I was this past Saturday, up in the stands waiting for the audio cue that would tell me it was time to jump into character once more. I was no longer just a simple audience member enjoying the elaborately choreographed Dad’s Dance – a showstopper in the ALWAYS fantastic Sally McDermott Dance Center annual recital. Nor was I a newbie, striding on stage for the simple one-two punch of a reason that I have no shame and I’ll do anything to make my daughter smile. Those were my marching orders last year and while the reasons remain the same, now I’ve got my own resume to think of. 🙂
Nope, this year I was a veteran – and having done it before, I knew I’d be back again. I just didn’t plan on the year flying so fast and furious. But that’s what these kids will do to ya’. Of course, that brings to mind a line from The Shawshank Redemption – “Get busy living or get busy dying”. Time flies because I choose the former and when you are living large – these days seem so small. No matter; that’s just the way I choose to measure my life. Seems like the right road to happiness, that way.
Aria began with the Sally McDermott Dance Center back in 2008 – at the time just 3 years old. Now she’s 8, taking two courses (and potentially looking at 3 for next year) and really blossoming. This once shy girl now LOVES the stage!!!
And this Sally McDermott Dance Center that we have found ourselves affiliated with is top notch. You sit there – watching the recital just flow – run with military precision but overflowing with artistic expression; and you know your child is in such great, caring hands. There’s a warm, familial feel to Sally’s business that belies the massive operation she runs. Two studios in two towns. What appears to be hundreds of students. A small cadre of talented instructors who lead our little girls alongside Sally, herself. From each, you feel a love and devotion to their art AND LIKE THE BEST ARTISTS, the want to share it all with the world and its children.
I remember a few years back, at Aria’s first recital, I settled in not knowing what to expect other than the show was likely to stretch three hours – given the sheer number of events listed in the playbook. The Sally McDermott Dance Center teaches kids from Ages 2 through Senior Year in High School – and as you settle in and let these dances wash over you – you can actually spy an imagined future where if your little girl sticks with it – poise and technique soon meets and marries the joy of performance. I was stunned by how entertaining the whole recital was. Like I said – run with military precision; the day just flies. The song choices were eclectic – always perfect matches to the movements – and I was in complete awe by the time it was all done… equally stunned by the fact I never once checked my watch. Now that my iPhone doubles as my timepiece that a MORE impressive feat BUT one I cop to completely. I settle in, they take over – AND TIME FLIES!!!
For a guy with a creative bent – it sent my mind wandering – and I envisioned where Aria’s feet might lead her. Of course, I’m a realist. If she ever decided it wasn’t for her… we’d pull the plug. It’s her life, we’re just helping guide her in the early going. I firmly believe in exposing our kids to a variety of disciplines and letting them choose whatever calls to them. I may have to put my foot down if she ever crosses paths with a Kardashian. That family has done enough damage to the Humphries good name. 🙂
This year – the theme was Landscapes and Dreamscapes. The program brought us from the Jungle to the Desert to the Ocean and beyond. As it turns out, Aria’s two numbers were bookended around the Dad’s dance – so we had Act 1 to enjoy the festivities and then once Intermission ended and I returned to my seat, the Hot Footin’ Humphries would take over the stage.
Aria’s group led us out of Intermission with Jungle Boogie – her ensemble Tap performance. Close to the end of the second Act, Aria’s Jazz group gave us a rootin’-tootin’ Cotton-Eyed Joe. Both set-pieces were fantastic as was the entire program.
Nestled in there was the Top-Secret Dad Dance. Like I said, a few years ago, I watched a group of guys take the stage for a Backyard BBQ-set ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’. Another year it was ‘Macho Man’. Last year (my first year) – we were ‘Born in the U.S.A.’
With quite a few returning vets – including one or two guys rapidly closing in on their own Five Year Awards – Sally decided to up the ante; adding some complexity to the dance, one minor mid-performance costume change AND a surprise second song (and routine) that she sprung on us at the end of our 2nd rehearsal.
Normally, we would line up a few songs ahead of our entrance – quietly secreting ourselves back stage where we could get our costumes in place. This year, Sally went for the dramatic entrance.
Seated in the stands – about 7 or 8 dances through the second half – suddenly that iconic whistle from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly piped through the auditorium. On cue, my 17 fellow rugged Dads and I, one-by-one AND taking our own sweet-ass time, stood and planted a black cowboy hat upon our heads. The hat was the icing on the cake – as each of us was clad in blue jeans, a crisp, white Oxford, a black Bolo tie, and a thick black belt with the BIGGEST belt buckles we could find out there on the Wild, Wild Web.
I went practical with mine – rocking a sweet number that features an actual working bottle opener built in. When Colin saw it he asked if the theme was ‘Superheroes’ as he figured it was something from Batman’s utility belt. Not a bad idea. I can spend the rest of my Summer swooping in on backyard BBQs and arena tailgates helping folks in need of a little liquid refreshment.
“I thought you packed the bottle opener.”
“No – I thought you did?”
“Say, who was that Masked Bottle Opening Man?!?!?”
All right – back on track.
As the music played on, this motley Wild Bunch moseyed its way through the packed auditorium – shooting steely-eyed glimpses at any man, woman or child who dared to gaze upon our mythic visage. We ascended the steps, stepped behind the curtain and like the rough-and-tumble cowboys of old – began futzing with our costumes, primping one last time, and arguing over Who was standing in Who’s spot.
Then the curtains opened, Will Smith’s funky Wild Wild West track kicked in – and we were off – three rows of dancing Daddies doing anything to leave a lasting impression on our little girls’ childhood memories.
It’s said all Dads will do anything to have a son of their own. Well, give them a daughter and they’ll do anything for HER every day of her life. The second you hold your little girl in your arms and you do the mental time warp ahead to that bittersweet future walk down the aisle – the contract is sealed.
And that’s why we’re up there, doing our best to mangle Big Willie’s Style. One glimpse of Aria’s shining blue eyes and a broad smile 5 sizes too large for her sweet little face tells me that there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be at that very moment.
Even if Sally HAD decided to cap our free-wheeling, toe-stomping funkadelic hoe-down with something a little more contemporary. 1 minute and 30 seconds into the routine – we broke down the middle – half running right; the others going left. On the way, our cowboy hats were tossed and as we lined up along the back curtain – our backs to the audience – secret sunglasses were extracted from our jeans’ pockets.
The Fresh Prince faded out – a rapid fire synth drum-solo kicked in – and we pivoted on our heels; glasses raised in front of us before we locked and loaded and slapped them in place.
♫ “Oppa Gangnam Style.” ♫
And with that – I’ll be a hit at weddings for the next half decade.
The bar was raised today. For me… and most especially for her.
Leaving the school, I joked with Aria – saying she has to dance for at least 3 more years so I can get my own 5 Year Award. She looked at me – a girl of 8 – and said “Well, I plan on dancing until I graduate High School and then in college so you can get your 10 and 15 Year Awards too.”
And for a second, the briefest of moments, I allowed myself a little glimpse into the future but then quickly shied away. It will be here before I know it. No need inviting it in early.
No – I find it’s simply best to savor and enjoy the day.
This was another great one in a lifetime rapidly filling with them.