Here’s the story.
I was living in NYC studying modern dance when my mother sent me a letter that she wanted me to deliver. The letter was to Nenette Charisse http://bit.ly/nujIec a very popular ballet teacher in the city at the time.
During the Great Depression, when my mother was a little girl, the Charisse Family settled in my home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Originally from Paris, Madame Calliope Charisse and her eleven children were a dancing dynasty.
At age 4, my mother became the Charisse’s first student. An established Ann Arbor, Michigan family our family connections helped the Charisse family build their following while residing in Ann Arbor.
Mom would come to the Charisse’s home for her lessons. Mom stood in the foyer waiting for her dance instruction when Madame Charisse would descend the stairs with all the drama of Gloria Swanson in the film Sunset Boulevard. ‘Virginie!’, Calliope would fawn over and kiss my mortified mother Parisian style.
At age eight, Nenette was only four years older than mom. My mother, Virginia recalled watching in horror as the older brothers practiced their dueling skills realistically portrayed ‘to the death’. This so traumatized my mother that she refused to speak to Noel for having ‘killed’ brother Nico.
The family was very poor–after all it was the Depression. As the honored first student, she was often asked to stay for dinner. The dinner consisted of pasta without sauce and dandelion greens from the yard.
Son Nico Charisse eventually moved to the West Coast, taught ballet in Hollywood and married Cyd Charisse, the famous movie star/dancer. Nenette would later begin a 60 year teaching career on the East Coast teaching some of the more famous dancers on Broadway such as (Gwen Verdon, Ann Reinking) and in the modern dance world(Jose Limon, Pearl Lang).
The pointe shoes my mother was trained to wear hurt her feet and she soon discontinued her ballet lessons to study piano instead. She would turn into an accomplished marimba/xylophone player. She never became a dancer. But I did.
This is the story–or the gist of it–described in the letter to Nenette she wished me to deliver. But here’s the regret: I never delivered the letter.
I eventually left New York but, from time to time mom would ask me why I never delivered the letter. I couldn’t answer her. It was a small thing to ask. But, for me, not a confident ballet dancer, and out of fear I failed to deliver.
So a connection was broken. A story was never told. But now I am telling you.
We make connections every day. And, we have the chance to tell stories that facilitate that connection.
I will always regret never having delivered my mother’s letter from a small moment of her amazing life. I’ve always wondered how the story would have turned out had I did.
It may have been a different story. Perhaps a grander one. It was her story. This is mine.
I hope you share your stories.
So that we can connect. You probably have some great ones. Some amazing ones.
Maybe you have one to tell.
Leave me a comment.