Every Monday (and Thursday) the same familiar faces gather, parental brows furrowed with the end-of-the-day rush; a crowd of tall, coated strangers stand uncomfortably in a room with too few chairs. At 6:15, precisely, the torrent of children pours into the lobby of the conservatory, a parade of little people laden with black instrument cases and swollen school backpacks. I always crane my neck to look for Short-pants; vigilant for that precious moment, the very first instant when her searching eyes find me in the pack of parents. Her expression shifts in a nanosecond, from awkward to assured, leaving the realm of the unclaimed and taking her rightful place at my side. I never get tired of that look, or the zealous greeting that follows immediately: “Mama!”
Yesterday, her music teacher walked behind her, his hand barely on her shoulder. I couldn’t tell if this was by chance, or if he was accompanying her out of the class. When she called out to me, he smiled and raised his eyebrows, a warning, I suppose, that he was escorting her for a reason. He is celebrity-handsome, by the way, a blonde kind of creature who, were he not teaching music theory at the public conservatory, could as easily be modeling Calvin Klein underwear.
“I wanted to talk to you,” he said, “about your daughter. She was very nervous today.”
She was a bit flustered when I picked her up from school to take her to the conservatory. The frigid temperatures didn’t make playing in the school courtyard very pleasant; she’d gotten a chill after lunch and couldn’t shake it all afternoon. I explained this.
“Yes, that’s what she told me,” he said, “but she is very often a bit nervous and dans la lune.” (I’m translating this exchange from French to English, except for these few words, dans la lune, which mean, literally “on the moon” and figuratively, “in the clouds.”)
“It would help if you could work with her, between classes,” he said, “to be a bit less dans la lune.”
I understood exactly what he meant. He was telling me that Short-pants is easily flustered and a bit spaced out. Though she can be totally focused; she wrote and illustrated a 22-page hand-made book on how to make a Mandala, and worked at it tirelessly, without any prompting from us. But it’s true that often she has her head in the clouds, leaving her eye-glasses who-knows-where, reading four books at the same time, bookmarking them by leaving them spread eagled in every room of the house. It’s a little bit of a miracle that she gets out the door with all her belongings in the morning.
“Yes,” I said to him, “except she has so few years left to be dans la lune. It’s a pity to cut that connection while it’s still so strong.”
“Oui, c’est dommage,” he acknowledged my point while standing firm: “but eventually, you must.”
Short-pants and I walked home without talking. It was too cold for words.
The much-heralded New Year’s Eve blue moon is waning, but the last few nights the sky has been so clear that I could see the unfiltered moon through the skylight, beaming in the girls’ rooftop bedroom, proud of its auspicious ranking. Tonight I stole upstairs and searched for that moon again – just a half-moon or even a sliver would be reassuring – but the cloud-cover lays a dark amber blanket over the city, hiding the moon from view. My heart is heavy, though it shouldn’t be. Short-pants is a resilient one. She’ll go to the moon if she wants to.
Photo Credit: Jean Paul Roux via Space Fellowship