“Pliez! un... deux... trois... Pliez!” said the woman with the tight bun of silver and white hair, black tights and tasseled skirt. She tapped her cane on the wooden floor as she counted and glanced at all the girls in the long, clean mirror as they grasped one hand on the barre and the other arm reached out, long, lean, and fingers delicately separated.
Every girl, in time with the music, slowly bent her knees outward and lowered her body as the woman counted, to the piano music on the record player. “un... deux... trois...” Raising up to the sky. Backs straightened. Necks long. Heads always held high.
“Like this” she said as she took the next piece of linen from the cabinet. The little girl looked over to her mother and watched as her mother’s hand gently aligned the corners of the napkin and bent it over, creating a crease. Then she bent it the other way, flipped her fingers, and placed it on the gold leaf plate. “It’s easy” she said.
The little girl’s fingers were a little sticky and her nails were uneven and bitten. The dining room table was shiny and smelled of furniture polish. The little girl took a napkin and began creasing and bending. The room was freshly vacuumed and the little dish by the couch was filled with potpourri; it sat on a lace doily. She tried to look poised like her mother, try to cross her legs so that they looked long like her mother’s, tried to caress the linen as her mother had so effortlessly.
“Fold it, baby” her mother said. “Fold it like this.”