Back in the eighties my eldest daughter, Maryellen, was a member of the Janette Dance team at South Houston High School. She had taken ballet and tap lessons from the time that she was five years old, first at a church in Pasadena and later from Patty Owens near our home in southeast Houston. Our family budget often tended to be stressed beyond our means but we somehow managed to find the funds for the classes that she loved so very much. Over time it became apparent that she had a natural talent for dance, most likely inherited from my mother who had her own reputation for being light on her feet and as graceful as a swan. When Maryellen earned a coveted spot on her school’s dance team it seemed to be a reward for all of her hard work and determination. Our family time began to revolve around practices, performances at football games, cotillions, competitions, camps and shows.
I was a fairly young mom, only in my late thirties, when I joined forces with other mothers in providing costumes, decorations, food and other kinds of support for our beautiful young girls. We were all caught up in the joys of our children’s teenage years. We ladies often met to build sets or design programs. We became expert seamstresses who made intricate pieces of clothing. I still recall almost tearing my hair out while sewing the game day suit that Maryellen had to wear on Fridays during football season. It was a complex project but well worth the effort in the end. I recall volunteering to work long hours in those days and at those times I got to know the other moms who were as lovingly devoted to their children as I was to mine. There were dance competitions that demanded whole days of our time and summer camps that required long drives and funds that we might have used otherwise. We sometimes joined in the fun by performing in hilarious dance routines that made us the laughing stock of the audience but also demonstrated just what good sports we were. Those were some of the best times of my entire life and the memories of those days remain precious even today.
Maryellen advanced through the ranks of the team to become one of the military officers, a Lieutenant. She worked hard to meet all of the requirements of the honor, including choreographing original dances and designing costumes and props. Because she so loved the experience, so did I. Those were the wonder years in which her confidence and abilities grew under the watchful eye of her always committed instructor, Glenda Jones Bludworth, a loving woman who taught her dancers how to present themselves with grace in any situation. She was more than just a teacher. She became a friend, mentor and counselor to each of her students. Because we parents witnessed her devotion to our children, we loved her as much as our girls did.
As is usually the case with good times, they flew by all too quickly. Soon Maryellen was attending the University of Texas and focusing on more serious academic goals. She had little time for dancing as she studied constantly to earn the grades that would allow her to be accepted into the McCombs School of Business. The days of visiting Southern Imports in search of fabrics, feathers and sequins were gone. The worn section of carpet in our den where Maryellen had practiced all of her dance routines was the only reminder of those lovely days. I lost track of the women with whom I had spent so many hours. Time raced by and I too turned my attention to new challenges and adventures, forgetting for a moment the joys of being a dance mom.
It has been almost thirty years since Maryellen donned her leotards and dancing shoes. In the interim she earned degrees in Finance and Accounting, worked, married and became mom to four boys who find the stories of her days on the stage to be strangely confusing. Now she is the one who spends almost every free moment supporting her sons’ hobbies and talents. She is the one who now juggles the family budget to find all of the funding for equipment, camps, classes, trips and college so that her boys will be able to enjoy their youth as much as she did hers. Like I once did, she has a circle of friends whose commonality is based on swimming, scouts, theater and school activities. She keeps books for the teams and creates end of season slideshows. Her world is hectic but wonderful. She rarely thinks back to those days when she was an extraordinary dancer who riveted the attention of her many admirers. The memories seem to be both long ago and just like yesterday.
A group of Janette Dancers recently decided to host a kind of reunion of the classes who had been members of the team under the direction of their beloved Glenda Jones Bludworth. The “girls” are now in their forties and some are even knocking on the door of the fifties. Like Maryellen they have children in college, high school and middle school. They have enjoyed marriages and careers and evolved to a time in their lives when they more closely resemble their mothers and me were back in the day. They are beautiful women who learned their teacher’s lessons well and carry themselves with the poise and self respect that she instilled in them.
Happily they did not fail to remember their mothers in planning this event. We were invited to celebrate the life of Glenda Jones Bludworth along with them. I enjoyed sitting at a table with ladies who had been my constant companions so many years before. We bragged on the successes of our daughters and exchanged photos of our grandchildren. We recalled our own sacrifices of money and time and how we would not have changed a thing. We laughed at some of the silly things that we did and grew saddened as we remembered ladies who had been part of our mother brigade who are no longer alive. Mostly we each had remarkable stories of the wonderful influence that Glenda had on our children. We all agreed that she was one of those once in a lifetime educators who goes well beyond the requirements of her job. She reached into the very hearts and souls of her girls and helped them to find the strengths and talents that defined them as unique and outstanding individuals.
It was grand to once again be reminded of a time in life that was so happy for all of us. I found myself amazed that our time together had been so long ago and yet seemed so near and dear. I was particularly happy that all of the delightful young women whom I had watched grow in wisdom and age and grace had remembered and appreciated their amazing teacher. She had so truly earned the attention and praise that they heaped on her. All too often we become so busy with the demands of daily existence that we forget to show our gratitude to the people who did so much to make us who we are. We let the clock tick and tick until it is too late and our hearts are filled with regret that we never took the opportunity to voice the thanks that we always meant to convey. Somehow Glenda’s Girls understood that they needed to stop the passage of time for a few hours so that they might demonstrate how truly important their moment with her had been. It’s about time!