Parents Visiting Campus: A Joyful Experience
My bear was part of a dance company most of the K-12 years. I would sit in all of their performances each year, and weep tears of joy, seeing how much she enjoyed it - there was a different glow on her face while on stage. The week Covid shut down the world, was the last performance she had.
Going to college far away from home, 2K miles to be exact, was stressful. Each year brought a new level of stress, and we discussed how she could do something fun on campus that allowed her to take some time out for herself. In her sophomore year, she took ballroom dancing, and loved it. She took it both semesters, and wanted to add ballroom 1, and tap to her plate this Fall semester.
I worried it was taking too much away from school work.
She said it brought her joy.
I let it be.
As parents, we wanted to visit campus. We drove up this week to pick her up for Thanksgiving, and she could not get out until her ballroom class was done.
I asked, “Can I watch you dance?”
She said, “I’ll ask.”
I learned that her teacher said, sure, she can watch.
I was warned, “Do not photograph me, it's a University level class.”
Knowing me, she added, “do not cry.”
I pinky-promised to comply.
My bear led me through campus, and I heard the Campanille chime in on the hour.
“How beautiful, I wish I recorded it…” I remarked.
“It’s nothing special, it does this everyday, twice a day.” said my bear.
I entered the old gym, it's hallways had surely seen many young feet flutter through. Its steps were worn out from hurrying. It once was beautiful. The walls missed the paint, and it could use restoration.
We found a small bench and I huddled in a corner of a large studio space. The glass windows let in light, illuminating it with a soft glow. The teacher entered. We greeted each other and I thanked her for the opportunity.
She smiled, and shared how her mother had never got to see her dance, because she was running a restaurant on a small island of Korea where the teacher was born. Her mother needed to work, so that her daughter could go to Seoul to learn dance, perform and compete. Her mother only got to see those performances after she shut down the restaurant (because she broke her back), but only on tape/ video.
I could hear a soulful sadness in her voice. I understood the gray spaces of her emotions. I understood. I had been both: the child and the mother. I consoled her, that her mother was there in spirit, watching everything she did. She smiled, and started her class. It was in the past, nothing could bring those moments back.
Over the next 90 minutes, I watched a group of enthusiastic young people understand the rhythm of music. They used their hands and feet to respond. They engaged, away from their devices, from the worries of the world, away from their belongings and attachments to people or things. I watched my own bear joyful, happy, smiling and laughing - changing dance partners as they swapped and practiced more. No matter how skillful or awkward their footwork was, they all were happy, curious and relaxed. They finished with a beautiful set of dances, I joined in cheering them as they wrapped up the class. My bear excitedly told me about all the new things she had learned. I told her a funny story, of her fathers’ two left feet, and us trying a short lived dance class together. Our laughter echoed in the hallways - I watched athletes strength-train, and students of a yoga class found their zen moments underneath a blanket in another large studio.
As we readied to leave campus for the weekend, my husband (architect+campus planner) remarked how the aesthetics of this campus could be updated, seeing how many buildings were in disrepair.
I reflected: was the purpose of a building or space or campus just to look pretty? Or did the beauty and strength of it come from the souls who lent it and layered it in moments of unbridled joy while also finding themselves?
I know when my child graduates, no matter what she learend in class, it is this beauty that she will miss.