The ballerina who was flying

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 12/02/2023

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Mr. Christos had reached the age of seventy-five. He was not going out much, anymore. He usually stayed at home with his grandchildren and the grandchildren of his sister, Irene.

Today was the Christmas holidays and they had all gathered at the house of his daughter, Monica, to spend the day together and eat a hearty Christmas meal. Mr. Christos was sitting in the living room with the children. The older ones, namely Christos and Antonis, played video games. Young Irene, his sister’s little granddaughter, who was around six, was trying to make the dance figures of the ballet she had been learning at the school she had been attending for a few months now.

She stood with difficulty on one leg and raised her arms high, extending one in front and the other behind, tilting her body slightly forward, trying to imitate the ballerinas she saw on television. She constantly fell from this pose, unable to balance, but did not give up. She repeated the movement over and over again. Suddenly she managed to stay for a few seconds still and excitedly shouted:

-Look at me grandpa, I’m flying, I’m flying!

Before Mr. Christos could answer, the two boys looked up from the video game and both said in unison:

-Nonsense! People can’t fly. Earth’s gravity does not allow them!

-But I flew, Irene told them, I flew, didn’t I fly, grandpa? She asked, looking at Mr. Christos for confirmation.

Mr. Christos opened his arms to receive her, and she perched sulking near him.

-Come here, Mr. Christos told the children. I want to tell you a story that I haven’t told anyone since now. Maybe it was because I was afraid that no one would believe me. But it is worthwhile to listen to it and draw your own conclusions.

-First I would like to remind you that you all have names that repeat in the family. This is to honor those who got old and will leave, but also to have a continuity in the family thread of life.

-So, we call you Irene, because that’s how we called your grandmother, who has now passed away. Every time we pronounce your name we remember her. You, Christos, you are named after me because one day I will leave, and you will stay in my place.

Christos immediately ran to him and hugged him:

-No grandpa I don’t want you to leave!

-This is a law of life and nature; Mr. Christos told him and caressed him. No one can change it. Like the law of gravity, which you said earlier. It doesn’t change. If it were not for this law, of gravity I mean, we would not be able to stand on earth. We would all fall into the void. Basically, we wouldn’t exist. The same with death. Sooner or later, it comes. It comes when this body that surrounds our spirit wears out. Either because we got sick, or because we have grown too much or because after an accident, our body has been damaged. But we must always remember. We are not just our body. First and foremost, we are our soul and spirit.

-What does it mean we are our spirit? Irene asked.

-Irene, you want to fly. Isn’t that so?

-Yes I want to, Grandpa!

-Irene, you love your mom, don’t you?

-Yes grandpa, I love her.

-Irene, you want to know a lot of things in your life, don’t you?

-I want grandpa! I want!

-What wants all this, my child, is not your body. This is your spirit. This is who you really are. This and much more that is difficult to explain to you now. But what you are never dies, never goes away!

-So, you’ll never leave? Irene asked, confused.

-Let’s say that when my body leaves, I will always be by your side, and I will love you! As your grandmother Irene, whom you no longer see, loves you..

-Irene was silent for a while, trying to interpret in her little mind the strange things she was hearing. Mr. Christos did not want to continue the conversation any longer. He had given the children a basis for understanding the theme of death and life would fill in the gaps when needed. Antonis got him out of the difficult situation.

-Uh, grandfather, why am I called Antonis? Who was Antonis? I don’t have a Grandfather named Antonis!

-Your name, Antonis, is related to the story I will tell you. Antonis, then, was a childhood friend of mine. I used to see him in the summers when we went to my grandfather’s village. He was born and lived in this village. Most of the time he was out in the fields, grazing his goats. He was usually alone and so he learned to hang out with his dog, talk to his goats, understand the signs of the weather, and generally develop a relationship with nature that we, city children, never understood or had.

-And why did you call me Antonis? Because of this friend of yours?

-Yes, when we grew up, I didn’t see Antonis again. He had left for England and never returned. But I loved him very much. He was a special person for me. So, I asked your mother, when you were born, to name you Antonis. Thus, every time I see you I remember this special friend of mine!

-So, will you tell us the story, grandpa? Christos protested.

-It was one of those summers when we were staying in the village. I used to go out to the pastures with Antonis every day. For me then, it was a magical life, full of freedom. Every day, Antonis taught me something new about nature and animals. I could see how much he loved his goats, he talked to them, and they acted as if they understood what he was saying. He used to smell the air and say to me:

-Tonight, it will rain.

-And it really rained in the evening. He knew where snakes were, so we avoided them. Once he took me and showed me the nest of a fox. We hid behind some bushes and saw the fox that came out with its foxes. They were such beautiful animals with their tufted tails and their golden red fur! They played with each other and with their mother, until we accidentally broke a branch and from the noise they immediately hid in their nest.

-He used to take me to springs outside the village where water gushed out and formed a small lake below. We would take off our clothes and swim in this natural pool, happy. When we were thirsty, he knew where on the mountain to dig a little in the ground to bring out water for us to drink. Many times, we ate only nuts from the trees and edible weeds from the ground. Antonis knew everything. Those were magical years!

-Take me too, grandpa! Irene exclaimed excitedly.

Mr. Christos caressed her tenderly.

-Many times, since then I have searched to find the places where Antonis and I hung out. But the springs dried up and the mountain stopped gushing water. From the one hand the climate change, from the other the dams that were built and hold the water, extinguished these wonderful places from our countryside. I am blessed to have experienced them even for a while, in the company of Antonis.

-Is this your story grandpa? Christos asked.

-No, this not my story. I told you all this to make you understand how much Antonis was identified with nature. He knew how to live it, enjoy it, and share his existence with her!

-However, everything sounds very nice! Antonis said. I, too, would like to go there. But also tell us the story you would tell us.

-This was all happening when my mother wouldn’t force us to carry Irene, my sister, with us.

-My grandmother? Irene asked.

-Yes, your grandmother. We couldn’t naturally take her on these adventures. Besides the fact that she was little, like you or so, she would say everything to our parents and woe betide us!

-So, one day when we didn’t have her with us, Antonis was very thoughtful. As if he wanted to tell me something but didn’t say it.

-What’s up mate? I asked him. You are strangely silent.

-I’m thinking, he answered. I have a secret and I don’t know if I should tell you.

-Why? I asked him. Have I ever betrayed any of your secrets?

-Not, because you will betray me. I’m afraid you will make fun of me. To think I’m crazy.

-What are you talking about? I would never make fun of you Antonis! Tell me, don’t be afraid.

-Antonis then began to speak slowly, as if he wanted to justify what he was going to tell me.

-When I’m alone, my friend, I sit and watch the birds. I see them flying, so free, going up high, going down low, and I envy them. Many times, I would like to be a bird and fly. But I’m not. My body is so heavy. It doesn’t get up. But my desire to fly is so great, that I thought that if I cannot fly with my body, I will be able to fly with my soul. So, I began to run across the plains and move my arms as birds move their wings. And one day, as strange and crazy as it may seem to you, I flew up. I could see my goats grazing, I could see my dog, I could see the tops of the trees, I could see everything.

-He turned towards me in agony. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say.

-You don’t believe me! I see it in your eyes!

-Not that I don’t believe you, man, but how is that possible? People don’t fly! Has this happened only once, or have you done it more times?

-I’ve done it many times since then. If you want I can do it now. Come, let’s go to that threshing floor to show you.

-Surprised and curious I followed Antonis to the threshing floor. I sat on a corner, and he started running in a circle, waving his hands up and down. I looked at him in disbelief until I was astonished to see him rise high. He was flying over my head in circles. I couldn’t speak out of surprise. I tried to follow him, imitating the moves he had made, but I didn’t get up a single point off the ground.

-These things don’t happen, grandson Christos said. Not only gravity but also the anatomy of the human body, does not allow it to fly. You had it all in your sleep, Grandpa!

Mr. Christos smiled at the knowledge of his grandson who wanted to become a scientist and read a bunch of scientific books for children.

-All these years that have passed, I thought the same many times, Christos. It is the most logical explanation. But this remembrance exists and does not cease to come back to my memory.

At that time Monica, mother of the two boys, who was in the kitchen, preparing lunch with the rest of the moms and listening to the whole story, told them:

-Don’t be so sure, Christos, that you know everything. Recently I watched a documentary on the TV about monks in Tibet, who is said they hover at the time of meditation. To my great surprise, it was allowed to the journalist presenting it, to film the scene and broadcast it. Of course there was semi-darkness but it was obvious that the monk had risen from the floor as he sat in the lotus position.

-Nonsense, Christos replied. It would be some trick.

-It might have been a trick, Monica said. But we must not reject that we do not know. We must look for it.

At that moment Antonis intervened:

-I’m going to be a scientist too, mom. I will look for it. It may be possible to be done.

-Nonsense, Christos said again.

Antonis was offended and they were about to start a fight when Grandfather Christos stopped them saying:

-Do not argue. A good scientist has an obligation to look for things he does not understand. If we stayed with what we know, science would not move forward. It would stagnate. But I have told you this story for another reason. Do you remember when Irene felt like she was flying a little while ago?

-Yes grandfather, said Irene and her eyes were filled with sparkle.

-Irene’s soul is still pure, like the soul of my friend Antonis. She does not know that the gravity of the earth does not allow man to fly. Thus, she can fly with the power of her soul. As children grow up and learn the dogmas of life, they place limits on their potentials and pursuits. It is important, my children, that you believe in your dreams. Only in this way will you be able to realize them. Never let the rationalities of life kill them. And don’t forget, my would-be scientists, what the greatest of all scientists, Alfred Einstein, has said::

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

-I don’t think you’re questioning Einstein! You must dream and believe in your dreams to move beyond the mediocre and the status quo. This is science: to search for what you do not know and to investigate what you do not understand.

-And will I, grandfather, fly? Irene asked again.

-You will fly Irene, you will fly if you believe it with all the strength of your soul. For as we have said the soul and spirit of man are stronger than the body.

Irene then stood up and resumed attempting the figure she had previously tried, until she balanced for a few seconds.

-Look at me grandpa! I am flying, I am flying!

This time everyone applauded her. No one dared to make fun of her.




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