While the rest of the sane world was enjoying the birthday of our fine country on July 4th, I was trapped with a gaggle of crazy Irish dance moms at the North American Dance National Championships in Chicago.
Now those of you not in the dance world might just assume that she woke up really hungry or that I have instilled really bad eating habits in my teenage daughter but neither would be true. A “donut” is used under the wig to provide height. “Ok,” I say in my singsongy happy voice, “No worries we’ll improvise.” This is usually done with a sock—but… I didn’t pack any socks. So to avoid any undo stress I calmly rummage through the suitcase and pulling out a thong I say in my Zoloft infused Mary Poppins voice, “Yes, yes this will do quite nicely,” all the while thinking OMG who the hell are you?
Competition time arrives… headbands, make-up check, stretching, run throughs, grouchy Sheraton Staff (you know who you were). The Moms settle into the ballroom packed with spectators. They announce our team and we all hold our collective breaths. “Please GOD just let them dance well.” Zoloft Mary Poppins has bitten her well-manicured nails down to the nubbins at this point. It seems like an eternity… but somehow during the dance the rest of the world slips away as we watch our girls dance. I find myself feeling my mother, long gone standing right beside me.
I know that this is what she and my dad experienced all those years ago watching me, and the girls I still call my dance friends perform these same ceilis in the basement of St. John the Baptist Church in Jersey City under the tutelage of Margaret McNamara.
Back in the here and now, the girls danced beautifully. Now we wait and see if they were good enough to get a medal. They don’t actually tell what place you’ll get just that you placed. Emotions ping-pong back and forth, between happy, hopeful, sad, terrified, disappointed and just teenaged angst. “Do you think we’ll recall,” my Kathryn asks? There is no right answer. For the record, not even Zoloft Mary Poppins can answer that one correctly.
They get their “Recall,” which is code for “more stress this way”. Exhausted, we put back on the dresses, check the wigs and headbands, slap on some make-up and send them up. Thirty seconds later it is all over with. We waited for three hours for 30 seconds of fame. I cheer loudly for the their accomplishment, wishing maybe they could have been a little higher (unless they’re first we all think it and you’re lying if you say you don’t). She comes off the stage and we hug and in that hug I feel every arm of every Irish ancestor wrap around us and suddenly, three hours of claustrophobia doesn’t seem quite so long and my heart is swelling with pride and my inner Zoloft Mary Poppins swallows hard on a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious spoon full of sugar that helps the medicine go down.
Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts