Once Upon a Ballerina

While I wait for this baby to be born I figured I’d take this opportunity to write about the other tiny tyrants currently controlling my life: the ballerinas.

the felt ballerinas

These bitches run my life.

I can’t remember exactly how it started or when they gained such otherworldly importance, but Harper is obsessed with these felt ballerinas. They are part of this Felt Tales dress up and story set, but Harper has very little use for the stage or dresses. Sometimes they require tiaras to be used as swim caps, but mostly she is concerned only with the anthropomorphic scraps of fabric themselves.  As you may have gathered, in our world they have very little to do with actual ballet.  And another wonderful thing about them is that they are of indeterminate and shifting ages– within a few minutes they will have their diapers changed, drive themselves to Ikea, play on the playground, and then want to nurse. It’s complicated, being a little felt ballerina! Their names by the way are: Blue Ballerina, Purple Ballerina, and Pink Ballerina.

So, the ballerinas are the stars of a disjointed, sometimes surrealist, Henry Darger-esque epic series of tales called, what else, The Ballerina Stories. They go a little something like this:

Mama and Harper: “Once upon a time there was a blue ballerina and she loved…”

Harper:” …to dance!” (or swim, or go to the park, or sometimes, be still my heart, to read books)

Mama: “…so one day she was dancing with her friends…”

Harper: “…they want go swimming!”

Mama: “…so they went to the pool…”

Harper: ” …but they want go to the pink swimming pool! They were grabbing! Blue Ballerina is crying! They see a pink turtle!”

And it goes on from here in a couple different directions. (Blue Ballerina, by the way, is always the protagonist.) Sometimes I tell some nonsensical thinly veiled fairy tale (or I admit, morality play– often the ballerinas have to remember how to share, or brush their teeth without fussing). Usually Harper interrupts or tells me what to say– she likes when the ballerinas go swimming in pink ponds, or visit the black panther (Quimby) at the petting zoo, or fall down and need ice, or especially most of all, when they fight with each other and then cry.

Increasingly, Harper wants to tell her very own ballerina story. These stories are about my favorite thing in the world, I think– quite post-modern pastiches of recent events (“and they were grabbing!”), phrases from books, (“and so it came to pass”), and original ballerina stories (dance parties and swimming lesson recreations — the poor things spend a lot of time waiting for the big kids to be done in the pool). I regret to inform you that the ballerinas are often grabbing and making each other cry. But usually they decide to share and take turns and then they feel better.

The ballerinas themselves have become grimy little fetish objects. They eat blueberries from tiny dishes while Harper dines. Before she will bathe
they must be settled in their own bathtub (a plastic takeout container). She sleeps with them all balled up in her fist, and while she is sleeping we have to go in and extract them so that they don’t get lost in the bed at night. Because first thing in the morning (and at pretty much all other times) we are interrogated: “Where Blue Ballerina? Where Purple Ballerina?”  Often when we go out to the park or wherever I have to keep them in my pocket because they must come with but are too precious to risk losing (or heaven forbid, sharing).

Now, in theory I love this. This seems to me the ultimate example of what a toy should do: inspire creativity and imagination. But these wispy dance enthusiasts are real tricky to keep track of. Once Purple Ballerina went missing for an entire afternoon. It was real touch and go for a while there. We told Harper she’d gone to Chicago to visit relatives which she tentatively accepted, but let me tell you, a lot of household tension was relieved when that shifty little minx was discovered under a piece if furniture. I mean, when her cab from the airport pulled up and let her out. Last night when I was absolutely convinced I was about to go into labor, my first thought was, obviously: the ballerinas! We had to locate them (Adam found them scrunched under Harper’s pillow) and set them somewhere safe —  I mean, I can’t imagine what my poor mother (in town for baby times) would have to deal with if Harper woke up and not only where we gone but the BALLERINAS WERE LOST??! Horror.

While keeping track of these scrappy scraps does seem to take a disproportionate degree of my brain power, I admit that I love them. I love that Harper can play by herself with them for hours. My mom  has constructed them (out of Fresh Direct boxes, what else!) a store and playground, which Harper immediately incorporated into ballerina land. They are doing a lot of produce shopping these days. They also seem to have some pretty seriously poopy diapers. Related? Perhaps.

Anyway, this is probably much more than anyone on Earth, including me, wants to know about the ballerinas. But they have been such a presence in the household these days that it seemed remiss not to note them. Now, I’m off to order a replacement set, just in case, because I really can’t take the stress.

12 responses to “Once Upon a Ballerina

  1. Happy Birthday Harper!

  2. Perhaps Harper would enjoy this video


    The pretty ballerina.

  3. I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while how much I love your blog, Amy. Everything I’ve read has been really wonderful and funny and smart and sweet, and this post is no exception. I love the ballerinas. We’ve got similar obsessions going on at our house right now–it’s all “bulldohdohs” (bulldozers) and “ekuhvators” (excavators)–but it’s so refreshing to have the little-girl’s-world perspective. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hey thanks! Yes, I have the feeling we’ll be seeing the other side of things before we know it. But at this moment Harper is feeding wooden petit-fours to a baby doll. SUCH A GIRL.

  4. Hilarious… From a distance.

    The little girl I was a nanny for LOVED felt dolls and then paper dolls. For your sanity never introduce Harper to paper dolls. There will be tears shed then their heads rip off, “TO THE TAPE HOSPITAL!!” will be screamed during nap time, when the dolls go “swimming” in the sink they will fall a part and then everyone will cry and cry and cry! It’s just horrible to give toddler ladies beautiful paper dolls.
    The only thing to remember is if someone does give her some or if she already has some, make color copies. It is the only thing that saved my life, “Oh Look! what happened while you were at play group! Ponytail ballerina went to the spa and now looks normal again!”

  5. Pingback: Harper’s Cubby Crew | household words

  6. Pingback: The Read Balloon: Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, and Harper’s first serious crush | household words – amy shearn and her blog.

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