Before I knew it, audition time was near. The ballet company was casting for its annual Nutcracker performance. M staged a huge tantrum insisting that she wanted to be in it, egged on by fond Daddy and not-so-subtly discouraged by unenthusiastic Mommy.
No prizes for guessing the outcome of that battle here. I caved in and was promptly punished with an information handout blithely chirping:
“We request parents to volunteer for a variety of tasks listed below : Group mothers, costume design, costume repairs/adjustments, snacks and food service, ushering, programs, flyers, etc.”
The small print stated
“All parents with children performing must volunteer and undertake to sell at least one program ad”
This was followed by an impressive looking blast of legalese that would have us turn over our children to Rumpelstiltskin if we veered from the terms of the contract. I gamely volunteered to be on the ‘Programs’ committee and never heard from anyone after that, my role having been compressed to zero by other prima ballerina moms who danced the whole sequence with the expertise of several Nutcracker performances.
M had been cast as a Little Sister, who shares a couple of nanoseconds on stage with the lead dancer and a host of at least 5 other Little Sisters, swaying and rocking baby dolls in their hands. The costume supplied by her ballet company was mercifully simple, a white smocked pinafore top with matching ruffled lacy bloomers, along with a large pink satin sash and matching pink ribbons for the hair, not the nightmare of pins and braid that were part of the Seraphim angels costume, for which M was deemed too small. Also her hair, being long would look good in ringlets, as required for the role of Little Sister .
The Hair! It was to become the bane of my existence. The Little Sisters had to have Victorian style ringlets (reminiscent of the ever-so horrid Nellie Oleson portrayed in the TV series Little House on the Prairie). To make matters worse, I managed to miss the evening ‘costume and makeup’ meeting at the ballet school. I went into a panic realizing that I had no clue how to generate ringlets.
Google to the rescue, I decided. Sure enough, there was the cheap as well as authentic option of using an old lint free rag cut in strips. I experimented with M’s hair, producing numerous ringlets which might have passed muster, if it hadn’t been for the tiny bits of towel lint sticking to them. My husband asked “Are you sure this is the right way to go about the ringlets? Perhaps you should schedule her for an appointment at the hairdresser’s” (And spend another $30 a pop to get her hair styled three nights in a row- No way!).
I purchased rollers at the Dollar Store- no good, since these had a Velcro cover that M’s fine hair was getting horribly tangled in. On the advice of a ‘Been there, done that’ mom at the ballet school, I got a set of small foam rollers and resigned myself to sending M to school in those for a couple of days. The logistics seemed as appealing as days-old-refrigerated cooked rice.
On mentioning the hair travails to a good friend, she was kind enough to bring out her hot curler set. We spent a frenzied evening experimenting with M’s hair, trying to see how fast we could achieve the ringletted look. With heated curlers, industrial strength hairspray (and a super-chemical smell to match), we managed to achieve a suitably Shirley Templesque look in about one hour. ( Never mind that my friend's experimentation on her own hair had led to results that she termed " Baby Jane" curls- something that I thought was supposed to be cute and even complimented her on, until I googled it and found scary looking pictures of Bette Davis as a child-singer grown up with a Baby Girl fixation. I immediately followed up with an apologetic email for the faux pas)
At least for now, M's hair problem was solved, I thought.