Deborah's Story "Always Find A New Dream"

We all have a story. This is mine. My father was in the military and I lived with my mom in Oklahoma so she could be close to her mother as well. When I was two we moved back to back to New York City and that is where my story unfolded for many years.

photo by  Randy Bacon

photo by Randy Bacon

My grandparents lived in Queens. I especially adored my grandfather. He was a very colorful man. I spent more time at my grandparents than I did at home. I was very active when I was a child and my mother wasn't a patient person, so my grandmother decided that maybe if I took something like gymnastics or dance, it would be a good outlet for my energy. So she enrolled me in classes and there dancing became an important part of my life.

My father died when I was three and my mother remarried, but my stepfather was not a good person. He was very abusive, and as I got older I fought with him a lot. When I was 14, I came home one October afternoon and there were suitcases in the hallway. My mother told me that she wanted peace in her home so I had to go. I could go to my grandparents if I had to, but there's a lot of fun stuff you can get into at that age and have no supervision. I would stay with a friend until their parents said, “Don't you have somewhere to go?”. Then one day, out­-of­-the-blue, my mother showed up at the ballet studio where I took classes and told me if I didn't start going to school that she would make sure I ended up in foster care, so I went to school.

photo by  Randy Bacon

photo by Randy Bacon

Growing up, I met a lot of interesting people. I spent my 15th birthday in London with the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols! I became friends with John Ritchie, otherwise known as Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. His father was a violinist in the London Philharmonic. For my birthday, John (Sid) arranged, through connections his father had, for me to meet and have private lessons from Margot Fonteyn, and I also had the honor of meeting Rudolph Nureyev, two famous ballerinas.

When I was 16, I was teaching classes at a ballet studio in New York under my mentor, a Russian trained ballerina. She told me that she had nothing more to teach me and referred me to the New York City Ballet. This led to me moving to Paris because my first ballet teacher and now friend, Anna, knew the artistic director for the Paris Opera Ballet. I danced in their Corps de Ballet. I also met my first husband while living in Europe. When I was 18, I got married. I was tired of taking care of myself. Shortly after, I got pregnant with my son, Christopher, and continued to dance. I actually danced three weeks before Christopher was born. I only gained nine pounds when I was pregnant with Chris. At first it was exhausting, but after my first trimester it wasn't too bad.

Then it happened. The first season that I would have been a soloist, right before I would have premiered, I ruptured my Achilles Tendon. It rolled up into the muscle making very hard to reattach. Ironically, I wasn't even dancing. I was playing tennis. So I was 21 and with this, my life was forever changed. A ruptured tendon ends a career in ballet. I was angry at everyone. After the doctor told me it was most likely caused by what happens to your tendons and ligaments when you're pregnant, I was even angry at my baby. I never took it out on him physically or anything, but I felt anger toward him when he was just a tiny baby.

Photo by  Randy Bacon

Photo by Randy Bacon

Life didn’t end with my career in ballet. It just felt like it should have. I had planned on performing until I was thirty-five, then having children, and opening my own studio. Instead I returned to the states where I worked on Broadway for a little while. I did some choreography. I was an understudy in Cats. My husband at the time was a studio musician, he was Jamaican and he was actually friends with Bob Marley. He even toured with Bob a couple of times. My dreams shifted to opening a coffeehouse. That coffeehouse remained open for 23 years, with a friend running it after I moved on to bigger dreams.

My first marriage ended shortly after my oldest daughter was born. I grew up in an abusive home and I had a lot of anger. I would beat on my husband, but he never once never hit me back. He got tired of all the drama and left, but we're still friends.

My two oldest kids had a nanny and if I felt like taking off somewhere, I would just drop them off with her and go. They were with her so much that they started calling her mommy, but for five years until I met my second husband, I lived the way I wanted to live. I know I didn't make the best choices. It was the 80’s, so there was cocaine everywhere and I used my share and someone else's too, and then I had a friend say to me, “If you want to get off cocaine, shoot heroin for a couple of days.” I took the bartender’s advice and I went through rehab three times before I finally recovered, made different friends and led a different life.

Photo by  Randy Bacon

Photo by Randy Bacon

I married my second husband, an abusive alcoholic. Somewhere along my journey I had started believing that the violence was normal and deserved, but I didn’t feel safe being around him, especially with my kids.

The day before I left him, he had beaten me so bad I couldn’t even get up from the kitchen floor, I slept there. The next day I packed up my three youngest kids, packed up a van and drove out to Missouri, which is where I am to this day. A friend that I had met while I was still in New York and had never lost contact with invited me to come stay with her in Springfield. I started hanging out with my third and last husband when I moved to Missouri. Shortly after my divorce to my second husband, he persistently started asking me to marry him. I said, “I'm never getting married again”. He just kept chipping away until he finally wore me down and I said yes. He actually was probably the love of my life. He kept promising me that he was never going to go anywhere. But then my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away in 2009.

Photo by  Randy Bacon

Photo by Randy Bacon

You can always get out of whatever bad situation you’re in. You can always, always find a new dream when one ends. I loved ballet. Dance kept me focused and sane when I was younger. It was cathartic and healing. When that dream was taken I discovered a creative outlet in poetry and opened the coffeehouse where I surrounded myself with writers, poets, and bards. When my new dreams became to big be contained within the walls of my basement coffeehouse, I went to school and found I loved being in college so much that I graduated and went straight into graduate school to get my masters. I taught for five years and then I got my doctorate. I’ve written three books. I still write today. I have a simple life with my youngest daughter and my close friends, and It’s perfect for me. I’ve found a new purpose. Like I said, you can always find a new dream, a new passion. Always remember that.

Deborah’s Story brought to you in partnership with

“For many in our community, routine doctor visits and prescription medications are far too expensive to access. Every day, people are forced to choose between food and medication or delay treatment for health issues until they are life threatening due to an inability to pay. MSU and Mercy partnered together to break the cycle of poor health and offer hope for the uninsured in our community. The only clinic of its kind in Missouri, the MSU Care Clinic offers uninsured patients top-quality primary care and prescription medications completely free of charge. We know every story—every person—has tremendous value. That is why at MSU Care, we are proud to give compassionate care and exceptional service at no charge to those in the greatest need.”