Maya’s ninth birthday is this Saturday. A few days ago, she looked up the date on the calender and discovered that it is also the second ballet class of the term. She has never asked to skip ballet, never even complained, as most kids naturally would, about spending her nights or weekends in the studio. But for some reason, I imagined her asking to spend her birthday with special play-dates, dinner out, or an elaborate party. In my head, I had already given her the day off to do with as she wished.
Instead, she asked to see her birth certificate. I found her baby book and the yellow paper issued by the county. She wanted to know the exact time of her birth and I located the correct box for her. 2:10 PM. Her eyes teared as she clasped her hands to her chest. She could not believe her luck at having ballet class at the exact moment she turned nine.
Maya was brought into the world several days early. The OB, thinking she was being poetic, said that she had been too enthusiastic in her pirouettes. Apparently, babies shouldn’t spin within the womb lest they entangle umbilical cords around delicate necks.
Once untangled, she slipped free so easily. She smiled at the father she already adored. Swaddled and placed in my arms, her blue eyes gazed with a strength that no constrained newborn should possess. I loosened her blankets as she struggled against the fabric. She relaxed into the freedom.
Maya will dance on this birthday. And many more to come. Her autistic brothers have helped her to smile in the face of tragedy, love with abandon, and create art as heart dictates. I’ll hold her as close as she lets me, remembering to let her be free when she needs it.
Happy Birthday, my dancing girl. Your nine years have been more exquisite to me than even you could imagine.