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Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure

Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession. It’s the final day of the challenge already?! Let’s make sure we end it with a bang — or, in our case, with some furious collective tapping on our keyboards. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you. A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.

Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative.

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Stef's icture


the unfinished dance

I know where my fascination with ballerinas came from. It was from seeing the movie “The Unfinished Dance” with Margaret O’Brien, Cyd Charisse, and Danny Thomas when I was young. A somewhat tragic story, it still left me breathless watching the ballerinas. Especially the little girls. They were so beautiful and delicate with their tutus fluttering all over the place.

ballerina pictures

I must have expressed my admiration for them to my mom in some way, because when we moved to Utah when I was 12, she decorated the bedroom for me and my sister very girly with pictures of ballerinas hanging over our beds. I still have those pictures. Never could bring myself to get rid of them.

I don’t remember seriously telling my folks I wanted to take ballet lessons. Only once did I ever bring it up. It was sixth grade and a girl in my class danced for us. I was totally mesmerized. When I got home that day I told my mom I wanted to be a ballerina. She didn’t say anything to me at all, just looked a little befuddled and walked away. In truth, she and I both knew I hardly had the body type that lent itself to toe shoes and tutus. I never brought it up again and neither did she.

But somewhere in my subconscious that idea rattled around for years until it began to take on a negative connotation. I found myself feeling less and less “like a girl.” There just isn’t any other way to describe it. It haunted me all through junior high and high school. I would sooner have died than be caught walking into Victoria’s Secret! Feminine was a word that wasn’t in my vocabulary. I’ve always been a jeans and t-shirt gal. Rarely did I ever don girly attire. Getting married and finding it difficult to conceive only served to reinforce the idea that I didn’t seem to be able to do what women were supposed to do. I lost one baby then finally had our son. And that was that — the end of my “procreating” years.

I never said much about this issue OR my fascination with ballet to anyone but my best friend and my hubby, his lordship. I did, however, write about it in my journal a lot. Scribbled this thing that sort of resembles a poem in my journal one day.

With agility and grace she pirouettes
her way across the room, hands held
loosely in relaxed repose, toe-to-knee,
toe-to-knee as her gauzy skirt billows
out anew with each graceful spin.

Exhausted from hours of practice but
encouraged by admiring stares, she tells
herself it’s worth it, noting her sleek,
strong body in the practice mirror before
collapsing wearily on the floor.

Head on her knees, curled into a ball, she
sighs deeply, feeling in every sinew of her
body the satisfied, aching reward. Then
rising again from her brief respite, she closes
her eyes and steps into a final fluid turn…

…and for one fleeting moment she is all the
beauty a prima ballerina suggests…until the
dresser mirror catches site of the middle-aged,
housewife-mom, worn robe twirling about her
as the turn and the daydream fades away.

Smiling wistfully at the pink toe shoes hanging
on her bedroom wall, dwelling momentarily on
what might have been, she heads for the kitchen
and morning chores, taking with her a lingering
sense of loss and…perhaps…just a hint of shame.


Lynette and HL both could see it was a problem for me. Lynette started buying me ballet-themed cards and little gifts. And, after hearing me express my interest in toe shoes, HL suggested I should buy a pair. Just to have as a reminder that inside I WAS all a ballerina stood for.

So off I went to the dance store, which was damn near as difficult as going to Victoria’s Secret! I told the clerk I wanted a pair of toe shoes. She asked me what size I wore. To her credit she did NOT laugh right out loud. I hardly resembled any kind of ballerina. I figured that had to be God’s grace at work. One weird look from her would have traumatized me forever! I had no clue how toe shoes were sized so I rattled off eight and half since that’s what I wore. I didn’t try them on. I would have been too embarrassed. In the end I explained they were just for a wall decoration. I thought it was really weird that you had to sew the satin ribbon laces on yourself.


My toe shoes are packed away in a box from our move upstairs, but these are like the ones I bought.

At home I got them out and held them for awhile, sewed the ribbons on, THEN finally got brave enough to try them on. Wonder of wonders, they fit — I think. I’ve never been quite sure. But a few minutes of trying to stand and walk in those hard things cured any notions I had of being a ballerina. So up on the wall of our bedroom they went, right over my desk where I could see them.

HL and Lynette thought having these things around would be helpful, but despite all their encouragement and listening, in the end it didn’t matter. We were in the process of adopting our daughter and my journal was full of sentiments of my insecurities about being able to raise a little girl (which is hilarious now as Stef turned out to be an adorable tomboy). And the closer we got to her arrival, the more of a failure I felt.

Then one morning I got up to find something lying on the table. It was a computer-printed card. On the front was a pair of toe shoes. The caption read: Dream of Dancing. And on the inside was a heart and the words: God knows your heart. It was from his lordship. I can’t begin to explain the boost that card gave my psyche at that moment. I’ve held on to it all these years, and of all the “things” I could have written about for this assignment on Writing 101, I knew it had to be that card. But it’s not really about the card, you see. It’s about having a husband who understands your struggles and is there to support and love you through them. That is the most treasured thing I have.

Card for blog

Do I struggle with that self-image still? Yeah. My key chain that I’ve carried for years says it all: Not born Barbie, trying to cope anyway. And I’ve found that coping is a whole lot easier when you know your family sees you through the eyes of love rather than the filters of this whacked out world.

Note: The picture at the top of this post is a chalk drawing that Stef did for me for a birthday gift when she was in high school. I think maybe it was her way of saying I was enough of a ballerina for her, too.


Special thanks to my amazing friend Plato for his pushing me through this writing course. Every time I said, “Yuck, I can’t do that!” he said, “Yes you can!” And thanks, bud for helping me hone my writing style. You’re the best.