I’d bought the tutu months before, long pink sleeves, layer upon layer of tulle with a bodice of tiny pink bows. When Briar saw the new pink tutu she nearly wept from the beauty of it.

“Honey, it’s for Ave,” I said gently.

“But mama, I love it. Did you get me a pink one?” She asked hopefully.

“No, sweetie. You have a pink tutu that fits you and a lot of other dress up things. Ave needed a new dancing outfit.”

We went round and round, until Briar’s face, drawn with longing finally, turned from the tutu. “Let’s go dress up Ave, I can’t wait to see you in it.” Ave jumped up, “Ok, Bri, yet’s go!” I smiled as they scampered off in a wave of pink excitement. Briar would end up waiting after all.

We were making dinner when I heard Briar scream. “Moooooooooooom! Mom! Mom! She’s wearing it! Avery is wearing her pink ballerina thing that I have been wanting to see her in for this so many days.” She sprinted toward us and then spun around abruptly to watch as Ave made her grand entrance.

Her hair was down, long dark curls bouncing on her shoulders, one tendril caught beneath the shoulder of her leotard. Her socks were pink, the toes a bit stretched out and the tops slouching at the bottom of her solid little legs. A bit of underwear poked out of the edge as she grinned at us and began to turn in circles.

“Oh, Ave! You look amazing,” I said.

“So pretty, Ave,” Sean oohed.

She looked at us very seriously and instructed, “Watch guys, watch, d’is is how ballerinas dance.” She held her arms out at her side and tucked her fingers in toward her wrists as if she were trying to hold a ball in each hand without using her thumbs or bending her fingers.

We watched as she turned in circles, those hands never untucking and the tendril never slipping from its spot beneath the pale pink fabric. I felt the burn, that sharp sting in the nose just before the tears start. She kept turning, up down, up down, pressing on her toes. Fin watched too, her feet kicking with glee each time Ave’s face turned toward us.

The tears were welling, threatening to unfurl in a way that would be impossible to hide. She stopped dancing and looked at us, her thick bangs clinging to her eyelashes as she waited. “I’m done dancing, now ya gotta clap.” As we began to clap and call at “Bravo!” She bent at the waist to bow, with her hands still held in their awkward position, she threw her arms behind her back. After a moment she began dancing again, the hint of one cheek peeking out from behind the back of her tutu.

Her legs looked so tiny, large shadows of the legs we held in the delivery room. She began to move in wider circles and her form blurred, almost three today and yet somehow almost gone. A piercing, pirouetting dream. Her face grew serious as she began to spin faster, a mix of athleticism and toddler softness drew a choke. The startled intake of air as the tears refuse to be held back.

I felt the wrack of each sob as Ave danced and danced, the light coming through the window deepening as the sun passed over the mountain. I knew I would never forget the bittersweet perfection of watching Avery dance her way into forever through the wet tracks of tears on Sean’s face.