THE SMALL HEROICS OF MOTHERHOOD
My mom kept saying she felt glad she only had to make my guitar once. She'd been warned by the mothers whose kids danced this number last year to buy extra board. If I broke it in practice, she'd have to make it again. And she'd made my guitar really great. She spray-painted it white and covered it with red sequins. My dance class had been named Rhinestone Cowgirls, and we'd be tapping to that cowboy song by Glen Campbell.
Maybe I was nervous on recital night. I probably gripped the guitar too hard. Right as we were about to go on, a bunch of sequins fell off. And as the first bars of the song began, my guitar broke in half. I was the shortest, which meant I was on the end, which meant Mom had eight measures to scream, fly across the theater, find a glue gun, then a stapler, and fix my guitar just in time.
And she'd made my guitar so great. It matched the white toy guns on my hips, and she'd added the sparkling red to match the red piping on the collar of my denim shirt. She'd even glued on some rhinestones -- the same kind of rhinestones that had been stamped to my sleeves. My shoes must have been spray-painted red. That was the year my dance instructor went color-crazy and our moms kept re-painting our tap shoes and the wide ribbons that kept them tied to our feet. And a hat. There must have been a hat.
But the glue. By the time our dance number ended, my guitar had glued to my shirt. It was hot on stage and all that new glue kept running from my guitar. Its smell reminded me of all of the smells I wasn't supposed to like. The smell of the gas station, the paint store, my dad's blueprints, my sister's markers. So as I danced on that stage and my taps jingled, I inhaled.
As we walked off stage, my mother stood waiting. She looked at my shirt, appraising the situation. Okay, she said. Do you want to wear this shirt again? If you like the shirt, I'll figure out how to save it.
I was only five or six and loopy on glue, but sure enough to know I wasn't the rhinestone type off stage. I shook my head, and I think my mom looked disappointed. The thing is, she really could have saved that shirt. That night she could have done anything in only eight measures.
Stacy Bierlein is a contributing editor to the all-fiction literary magazine Other Voices. Her current work appears in Clackamas Literary Review, Emergence, Pearl, So to Speak, and the Seal Press anthology Young Wives Tales: New Adventures in Love and Partnership. She lives in Los Angeles.