When Clinging To Life’s Final Threads Is Required, Stubbornness Is Quite A Useful Character Trait

When Ashley was 4 years old, we enrolled her in a “Dance at Your School” program. The Program essentially involved having a group of dance instructors come to the school after recess and offer 45 minutes of beginning, intermediate and advanced dance instruction for students of all ages and talent levels 3 days a week. Ashley loved to dance and seemingly couldn’t get enough of the classes. As the holiday season approached, she and the 15 members in her group began preparing for an annual Holiday Recital that was to be held in the school auditorium before what would turn out to be a crowd of more than 100 parents and other loved ones, a number of whom were our friends.

I remember leaving for work early the morning of the show only to find Cyndy and Ashley already hard at work fixing Ashley’s hair in a beautiful bun. By the time I arrived at the school auditorium around noon, Cyndy already had secured front row seats and Ashley was happily situated behind the curtain with her fellow dancers.  Moments later, however, we heard a bit of a commotion that sounded an awful lot like Ashley pitching a fit. I immediately dispatched Cyndy to investigate.  She returned to report that Ashley had become very upset when the teacher insisted that she and her dance-mates wear a Russian fur cap for the first “pairs” dance, because it covered her bun!

Ashley flatly refused to dance unless she was allowed to do it without the hat.  Eventually, an acceptable compromise was reached and Ashley and her fellow dancers strode quietly toward the back of the auditorium to a small staging area – hats securely in place.  Within seconds of arriving at the holding area, however, Ashley started in again. This time it was my turn. I hurried to the back, pulled Ashley aside and using all of my “considerable” advocacy skills (and a heavy dose of “guilt”) convinced her to quiet down and take the stage with her classmates. Armed with a  promise that she would, I scurried back to my seat and settled in to watch the show.

Sure enough, Ashley went up on stage as promised and paired off with her partner. I smiled broadly as her eyes met mine. She returned my look of affirmation with one of utter disdain and defiance and, as the music started to play, she stood statue-like in the center of the stage with her arms folded in front of her! Much to the chagrin of her dance partner, who was completely taken by surprise and simply continued to dance in circles around her like a horse on a lead line, Ashley remained frozen in that position until the music stopped. Cyndy was mortified. Truthfully, it was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing.

As Ashley exited the stage, I called her over, sat her on my lap and very sternly asked her what had become of all the “promises” she had made to me in the holding area moments before taking the stage, the fact that I had taken time off from work in the middle of the day and driven all the way down to the school just to see her dance? She paused for a moment, looked away and then turned back and stuck out her tongue! And with that she hopped off my lap, ripped off her admittedly rather unattractive Russian fur cap and headed off to rejoin her classmates back stage, as if nothing had happened. Suffice it to say, it was all more than a little embarrassing to mom and dad.

Little did I realize at the time, of course, that it also was a foreshadowing of a degree of stubbornness, bordering on open defiance, and, in an odd sort of way, a level of courageousness (I suspect not many 4-year-olds would “have the guts” to stand motionless on a stage in the middle of a holiday dance recital “in protest” before a crowd of a few hundred adults, let alone do so over an accessory!) that, twenty years later, very likely  contributed to saving her life – as time and time again, she steadfastly clung to what were increasingly thinning threads of hope.  I can’t pretend I’ve always viewed Ashley’s stubbornness as an “admirable” character trait, but it certainly, thankfully has had its moments!

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