"There are shortcuts to happiness and dancing is one of them."
She'd waited patiently since December 25, when Santa Claus gave her a little gift box with that pink uniform. But it was such a long wait.
And at last, it was time to become a ballerina.
She slipped on her tiny leotard and tights, and pink leather shoes like a real ballerina wears.
I whisked her thin hair up into a little knot of a bun. As I swept up a section here and there, gathering it into my hands, it seemed as if every movement made her a little older. As if she was growing up three times as fast this morning.
And yet, when we arrived and she stepped into line in that chilly studio, she found herself the smallest of the other girls, despite being so tall. They must have been the four year olds. But Millie held her own.
After we pinned on the name tag to the front of her uniform, she tried chatting with nearly every student, even though most were too shy to respond. She shook the teacher's hand, and giggled to me once she had. After all, it was like meeting a celebrity. A real ballerina.
The class began, and I could only watch through a little window crowded with other parents. Every few minutes, she would remember I was there, turning to give me a big wave and a smile. It's the kind of moment I imagined the first time I held her. I just didn't imagine such a small gesture could make me cry.
I watched her stretch and spin, skip and clap, and take a big bow with the rest of the class.
My heart was bursting through it all.
She was a miniature Degas painting, twirling in pastels.
I write so much about her brother. But this special day was Millie's day.
I want to remember that time won't stop for her, either. To remember that she's still little and to treasure it while I can. I want to celebrate her. To encourage her. To show her grace. To find the grace in her.
And to be proud of this little girl in pink- the one with the impish grin and the hand waving desperately for the teacher's attention.
And to be so grateful she belongs to me.