[wrote for my daughter who is a toe walker, we’re working on it]
Ten year old Brionna stands in tip top formation with heels in the air as she balances on her toes. If she closes her eyes tight enough she can imagine that she’s a majestic ballerina. Every shade of the rainbow curves about her waist as her tutu dances in the air when she does a pirouette.
Sometimes she imagines that she’s standing atop a tight wire as an eager audience waits with baited breath. One delicate step, two more, three. They oooh and ahhhh in surprise as she makes her way to the end and takes a bow.
Mostly she thinks of her five cats and how easily they prance about like they’re gracefully dancing to music only they can hear.
If I were a cat…she ponders as she watches a furry tummy gently rise and fall.
Before she has a chance to build upon that fantasy, her mother calls out that dinner is ready.
Chicken pot pie, her favorite. She devours two helpings before hugging her mother and making her way to bed.
That night, she dreams that she is both ballerina and feline. She is graceful and everyone claps when she spins on her toes.
The next day, she wakes per usual and stretches before shuffling to the bathroom. Everything is the same as it always is though her pajama bottoms are slightly askew. She tugs at them and mutters under her breath about needing a new pair.
In the end, she surrenders and trudges to the kitchen.
It’s her mother who notices. She shrieks loudly and her eyes widen as she stares back at a bleary eyed Brionna.
The little girl frowns and tries to figure out why her mother is upset.
Pillow crease marks on her cheek? No, that’s not scream worthy.
Gum in her hair? No, she hadn’t had any lately.
“What….is this?,” her mother interrupts as she grabs something from behind Brionna’s back.
Brionna smirks and sarcastically remarks – “It’s a back, Mommy.”
“Not that. This,” her mother sputters as she takes in hand a very long and furry…..tail.
Brionna grabs the end and carefully follows the line of it.
It’s on my skin, she thinks to herself.
It’s on my skin and I have a tail.
“I don’t know h-how that got there,” Brionna sputters as she tries to get a better view of it and stumbles, nearly hitting the floor.
“Okay. Okay, right. I’ll…I’ll call daddy, okay? Everything is fine, no need to be upset,” her mother stammers as she clutches the phone tightly and hits a button.
From there the rest of the day is a blur and Brionna collapses into bed sometime around eight which is early for her. She much prefers the night to the day in that she can doodle without being interrupted or watch videos on her tablet but today has been an exhausting array of seemingly endless questions.
One week passes then two.
Multiple doctors are consulted. They have no feasible answers regarding the tail and Brionna can’t help but wonder why everyone is treating it like it’s a bad thing. She’s quite enjoying smacking her little brothers with it when they’re being mean. It’s useful at times.
Four weeks, two days later Brionna wakes to another surprise.
She cannot believe her eyes as she stands on tippy toes and stares into the mirror. They’re long and white as they branch out under her nose and she can’t help but run a fingertip along them.
They tickle as she attempts to sniff of a bottle of shampoo (do cats have a better sense of smell?) and giggles.
There is the usual hoopla that Brionna has grown accustomed to whenever she wakes with another oddity. Her mommy anxiously fans herself while her daddy gently pokes at the whiskers and asks if they hurt.
No, of course they don’t. They’re just there as much as a pinky finger or the earring holes in her ears are.
I can dance better, she discovers one night long after everyone else in the household has gone to sleep.
Her sense of direction has improved and she rarely trips over her own feet anymore.
Yes, she decides, whiskers are fantastic.
It’s only when her ears have grown pointy like two tiny tents, that her mother sits her down for a talk.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” her mother begins.
Is it bad?, Brionna wonders.
Thoughts race through her head as she takes her place beside of her mother.
Am I going to have to have surgery? I feel more like myself than I ever have. I don’t want to change.
Her mother smooths out a wrinkle in Brionna’s Spiderman blanket and takes a deep breath in then out.
“Your great grandfather…you…well, you have a lot in common with him. He looked like this,” she begins as she gently strokes the backside of an ear.
Brionna is very excited. She beams happily as her mother continues to explain that this is a rare condition that seems to skip a generation or two. It’s permanent but the ears were the final change.
“Now,” Brionna’s mother says with a smile. “Now you know why you’ve always had a tendency to walk on your tippy toes.”
The little girl couldn’t believe her luck. She’d get to be a real life ballerina – not in the way she’d imagined but this was much better.
Maybe, she thinks to herself, I’ll walk that tightrope someday after all.