According to plan

Life has a funny way of working out.


Today I sat through four hours of a dance recital, the last two in a packed auditorium with a lazy air conditioning unit on a hot South Carolina day. Even my knuckles were sweating by the time the last dancer’s award was given out.


Except for the part where my daughter took the stage and displayed how far her ballet had come since last year‘s recital, I was miserable.


But as I carried my dancer and the 10-inch trophy off the stage, told the brown-eyed princess how proud I was and gave her a kiss, I couldn’t help but think there was no place I’d rather be. Her mother was there, as were my parents, dear friends and her mother’s brother. We all joined the rest of the dance academy and their loved ones on the concrete steps outside leading to the four sets of double doors to the auditorium.


It was a year earlier we were doing the same, minus her mother. Back then she was in the youngest group – the one where the children display little more than how cute 3, 4 and 5-year-olds look in costume trying to do something in unison. This year, her class performed an actual skit.


Hopefully God will bring us all together again for the same reason next year, I thought.


Isn’t it funny how the plans we make for ourselves aren’t nearly as good as what actually happens? The blueprints I drew for myself 10 years ago sound dreadfully boring nowadays.


I’d be out west somewhere. Probably Wyoming or Utah by this point. I’d write columns on cycling, missing New York and what the local school board was up to. I’d take what little money I had left from paying rent and utilities for some secluded cabin on the side of a mountain and use it to camp, hike and probably kayak. My parents would be people I did a lousy job staying in touch with.


And I’d kick back by myself in the evening with a bottle of some over-priced microbrew and think how everything I worked for in college had come to fruition. Then I’d read some Edward Abbey and get angry at the world. What a life I would have if everything had gone according to plan.


I’m so glad it didn’t.


I would have missed out on the 10 thousand I love you’s – none more smile-grabbing than another – I’ve earned since she was born. I would have missed out on the growth I’ve observed and endured. I would have missed out on Saturday’s dance recital.


For a moment on this perfect evening that was June 4, 2011, I imagined the recital without Kalista. I watched her mom, a bleach-blonde haired woman struggling to define herself as a mother, embrace our daughter and envisioned Kalista’s kindergarten classroom with another child having locker No. 13. I thought of the fountain in uptown Greenwood having never watched Kalista run around it, dipping her hand inside for water on a hot summer day, and Cambridge Park minus the prints left in its sand by her bare feet.


Yes, I smiled to myself like a fool, I sure am glad things didn’t go like I planned.

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