Last Wednesday (May 30), the Dailies had a major gig in South Orange County – an outstanding evening in all respects, by the way – but it involved their early departure to the old O.C. to allow for equipment pick-up and set-up, rehearsal, and so on. That meant that yours truly had sole charge of their offspring beginning at 9:30 a.m., rather than my usual Wednesday start time of 2:30. No problem, says I. Furthermore, I remember that every Wednesday Erica takes Ella to a 10:30 dance class (with toddler Zion as an interested observer), followed by lunch (usually at Topper’s Pizza Palace). Erica assumed I would pass on this event, having had a knee arthroscopy five days before. But how hard could this be?
An important planning tip for future reference: It takes at least 45 minutes to prep and travel to dance class. There is a special outfit Ella must don for the occasion. Hair must be properly pulled up (definitely not part of my training). Zion must be dressed. The appropriate stuff must be packed in the diaper bag. A stroller must be loaded in the car. The kids must be buckled into their car seats. (Ella’s seat has a padded bar thing that must pass over her head, effectively dismantling my lame attempt at gathering her hair into a pony tail.) Then we have to find the dance studio, a nondescript destination amid dozens of similar-appearing industrial buildings near Amgen’s massive complex in Newbury Park.
Fortunately, Ella is able to direct me once we exit the freeway. Once we arrive, unbuckle, gather the gear and walk in, she makes a beeline for the door to her class. We’re 25 minutes late for a 45-minute class, but no matter. She joins the contingent of a dozen or so preschoolers in matching outfits and begins moving to the rhythm of “A Cup of Princess Tea.” Suddenly one child requests a potty break and several follow suit. The teacher takes pity on the pathetic state of Ella’s hair, no doubt wondering what male attempted to fix it, and efficiently restores order. The potty-relieved troupe now puts on tap shoes for “Be Our Guest,” complete with little trays, and begins their dance moves. The tapping isn’t in synch, sounding more like metallic popcorn, but no matter. I drink in the whole scene through the observation window. A thought crosses my mind, much like a similar reflection I had 25 years ago when I sat in on our daughter’s dance class on my day off.
This is the purpose of civilization.
I think of all that has to be in place for these little girls to dance and twirl, and for me to watch them and savor the moment. A whole lot of gallant people died more than 50 years ago so that we don’t have to live under swastikas. A whole lot of people have kept watch over our country since that time, so that we haven’t been bombed by some Grand Poobah who doesn’t like our culture or religion. A whole lot of people labored to develop immunizations so that none of these little girls have been killed by diphtheria or crippled by polio. A whole lot of people worked to create the infrastructure that allows us to have some income, a place to live, food to eat, and something left over to pay the people who run the dance studio.
I am well aware that far too many people in our world cannot watch enraptured while a granddaughter dances, or talk into the night with a beloved spouse over a glass of wine, or read whatever book they’d like, or sing worship songs in a public meeting. I marvel that I am the recipient of these and other privileges, and remain both humbled and grateful to God – and to a lot of people I’ll never know – who together have allowed me to experience them.