My brother stood in front of the curtain and told the crowd before him that this moment was a miracle he had long hoped for. Miracle?, I thought to myself. I had my doubts.
Over the years, in some mysterious ways, I’ve grown apart from my family. I’ve found that my experience of Jesuit life is not always easily shared, even by those with whom I share blood. I still love them — probably more deeply today than I ever have before — but it can be difficult to navigate our divergent paths. Whenever my mom begins her relentless inquiry, asking if I’ll be home for some event or gathering, my stomach always twinges a little. Home for what?, I wonder.
I now live several hours from home, but the geographic distance only mirrors the psychic distance that has also grown up between us over the years. In many ways, my life differs radically from theirs. My work is different (I call it ‘ministry’), my lifestyle is different (poor, chaste and obedient), my priorities are different (holidays mean more to me than just gathering for a meal together, though that’s important). I’m separated from them by many miles of land, by many experiences and interests, and also, for instance, by my definition of miracles. When I go home I’m not expecting miracles.
Mid-June on Long Island is a sweaty, sticky season of sequins, spandex and sound. It’s dance recital season. Each year little girls in heavy makeup and cheaply-made costumes hold tightly onto the hands of their overanxious stage moms as they navigate the waxed floors of local high school hallways in slippery patent leather tap shoes. My twin sister first started dancing when we were five years old and over the past 25+ years the annual dance recital has been a vaunted family ritual as we each took our turns variously as performers, choreographers, staff members, teachers and spectators. So when my mother asked about a date in mid-June, I knew what this was about: David’s first dance recital. Well, first in a way.
My youngest brother, David, opened his own dance school business last summer. It had been a dream of his for years, since he basically grew up in the studio. He’s exceptionally talented, driven, and has had great success as a dance team coach and choreographer for high schools and colleges but opening a small business in this day and age is no sure bet. When he opened his small school in a neighborhood strip mall, we wished him well and held our breath, hoping some students would sign up. Some did–and before we knew it his first school year was coming to a close. When it was time for the annual recital my mother asked, “Will you be home? David wants you there.”
Consulting my calendar I realized that the timing was just right and the answer could be ‘yes.’ So it was that I found myself on Long Island, back in that familiar scene, sequins and all. But this time I was no spectator. I was the Music Man, pressed into duty by my youngest brother to run the soundboard. David had wanted me there, indeed.
Looking around before the show I saw we all had been assigned our tasks: my father and older brother were collecting tickets and handing out programs; my twin sister was in the box office while my mother monitored the dressing room; my younger sister was guiding her classes to the stage and there was David overseeing it all, adeptly handling all the details of the night. I was immensely proud of him.
In his remarks before the curtain opened, he reflected that the process of opening of his little studio and keeping it going was ‘a miracle’ he had long hoped for. A miracle? In the moment, I was doubtful. But what else would you call this momentous occasion? By what other name is unity in diversity known? Miracles occur when the impossible is made possible, when divergent and strained paths converge, and when what is hidden is revealed and beheld.
My family is still separated by many miles and varied priorities, but that night there was a common venture upon which we were all focused, a common path we could all gaze upon and move down together. That night we were as close as I can ever remember being. Some measure of distance had closed between us and, in that way, that night was a miracle.
No doubt about it.
The cover image, from Flickr user Theen Moy, can be found here.