Monday, October 19, 2020

1970 – Hold On to Sinbad - Staying En Pointe

Jerry and Suzanne Watts

(50 Nifty Years in United States Series)

Jerry and Suzanne were my sister’s ballet teachers and our family friends. They had such grace and seemed like they had a perfect life. They were always doing things that seemed like they held on to life, and at the same time, had few cares. They had dinner at 11 o'clock at night. They had multiple businesses and redesigned their ballet studio. They were always moving forward.

In the early winter of 1973, they left to go work in the Nixon administration (Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare). Packed up their lives and moved to Washington. On the day they arrived in DC, the Secretary of that department resigned to take a different position with the Nixon administration.  Since their contact was no longer in charge (and you may have read about it - several months later that contact also resigned completely rather than obey Nixon’s order to fire someone) they turned around and came back to California. They recovered and went back to ballet. 

In the mean time, I got added into several performances when they needed an extra small boy for their shows (which took place at the Mission Playhouse in Southern California). For example, I was a prince in the “King and I” and little Barnaby in “Babes In Toyland.” I would often spend time during my sister's class sitting in the hallway. All those shoes led me to try them on when no one was looking. Especially the point slippers that were always scattered in the entry hall. Week after week, I would wear those over sized shoes and found it easy to step up en Pointe. Believe it or not, for years I could stand on point and would occasionally share that Balance' gift (fondurelevéfondu). Several of the girls in my sister’s class were always envious.

Lessons in the hallway.

As I said, they were my sister’s ballet teachers and I always went along to her classes. Suzanne and her mother were from Russia and I am sure if I had paid attention, I would have heard some amazing stories. I did not. I recall talking a lot and saying things that only 6 year old can get away with. While they seemed so sophisticated, they were folks who liked to camp. We spent several summers with Jerry and Suzanne camping at the beach in Ensenada Mexico. (Camping keeps going on for over the last 5 decades by the way.) 

Jerry and Suzanne had a dog (a German Sheppard, named Sinbad). It was on a walk at the beach in Ensenada that I convinced Suzanne to let me hold his leash. It took some convincing; Sinbad was bigger than I was. Suzanne told me to hold tight and to never let go. So I did.

Did I mention Sinbad was scared of waves? He was. And a big one crashed and Sinbad was off and running back to the campsite and their trailer. I never let go. To this day, I recall the wind and sand and bouncing off the dunes as Sinbad dragged me without any notice that I might be there at all. I recall exhilaration and just a bit of fun. I don’t recall being hurt or crying or even getting anything other than being covered by beach sand.

I share this story because I felt I learned at an early age to just hold on and focus on a goal (point). What’s the worst that can happen? Banged up and dirty from the experience. Trying different things whether it was holding a leash of a 100 pound German Sheppard or getting on point when others could not. Moments like that allowed me to fly like Peter Pan when I was 20 years old (another story for later). I have kept moving forward during some of the most difficult times in my life .

I am grateful for that lesson about applying myself to get en Pointe and just holding on when things did not go the way one would expect. Thanks to Jerry and Suzanne…and Sinbad for an early lesson as I celebrate over 50 years in these United States.

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