Ballet is a HUGE part of my life and has been for years. I learned very quickly that the best way to support my daughter and her dream, and to see her on the weekends, was to be involved behind the scenes. So I rolled up my sleeves and became the master of my craft; a specialist of a specific variety. I go where very few other parents have gone before.
I steam costumes!
This is not to say that I don’t do other things. I do marketing, parent outreach, volunteer coordination to some extent, and I have even been known to color shoes! But when it comes to working backstage, one can always find me yielding the business end of a long hose, attached to very hot water, steaming.
“What are you doing?” the little girls have been known to ponder as they troop back to the lobby after a few hours of rehearsing.
I would like to say that their eyes enlarge and they say “OOO” or “aw” or that they might even consider aspiring to such a job in their adult years when they too are the parent of a child in a ballet school.
But no… they look at me, say “oh” and turn their attention back to their friends or the pretty costumes on the racks awaiting my attention. They are not that interested in the wild, steam breathing beast I have tamed to do my biting!
That is okay. One day they will understand all that is involved with the work that I do. They will come to appreciate the steam burns on my hands, the frizz that occasionally comes to my hair, and the reason I wear a light shirt when it is freezing outside. They will realize that without my skills and my ability to direct this steaming beast, their costumes would be wrinkled or appear wrinkled for no reason. Their various tutus would bare the mark of months in storage over the fresh, clean, and fluffy costumes that line the racks before them.
For years I have spent my rehearsal afternoons steaming. The process has become an art. The flipping of the costumes, the refilling of the water container, the steaming of 12 month old wrinkles...
I have learned how to steam despite the burns… moreover, I have learned how to receive fewer burns as my work with this beast has developed – our relationship becoming one of mutual understanding over machine and operator.
Every relationship, at one point, must come to an end.
Saturday, after I refilled the water container and returned it to the machine, I noted that something seemed off. The power didn’t appear to be working properly. Once on, the machine would not turn off. Though on, the water would not heat; the beast would not exhale steam.
My friend appeared to be… sick.
I turned to the head of the costume department to seek her advice. I mean, where else does one turn when a steamer is sick but the person in charge; the parent in the know.
We played with the cord.
We noted the loose sockets and changed from one outlet to the other.
We jiggled things around. (This is what costume people do to help a sick steamer)
We decided to give it a rest and check it out again later.