There are few things that give me greater joy – and I mean deep down, inexplicable, happy-licious all the way to my toes joy – than watching my daughter dance. I mean it! I love to watch her throw her whole self into the carefree, delightful business of celebrating the joy of the moment in the moment … cuttin’ a rug on the dance floor with her friends without a worry in the world.
Growing up in a very conservative Pentecostal home, I was not allowed to dance. Nope. My parents said we didn’t “believe” in it. I wasn’t aware of this until 7th grade, when the first school dance of the year was announced and I excitedly went home to tell my mother. My friends and I had talked about it all the way home on the school bus – what we were going to wear, how we were going to do our hair, who was willing to share their lipstick and blue eye shadow … I was pumped! But three little words – “You’re not going” – took the wind out of my sails pretty darn quick.
It had never been an issue before. I took square dancing in gradeschool, but apparently that didn’t count. Dancing on a dance floor (or junior high gymnasium), with the lights turned low, suggestively shaking body parts with members of the opposite sex to K.C. and The Sunshine Band was strictly forbidden. End of story. My parents were firm, immovable, non-negotiable. There would be no discussion. We. Did. Not. Do. That. Kind Of Thing.
And so I didn’t. I won’t elaborate further, but suffice it to say it was a Pretty Big Deal.
Let me say right up front that I had a wonderful childhood and wonderful parents. I always knew I was loved, even when I felt I wasn’t liked. And I have great memories of growing up in the house on Summerville Road. But my adolescent years were difficult ones for me, and some of those well intentioned restrictions stifled me in ways I felt were especially unbearable. My parents had rules, and I followed them … most of the time.
There wasn’t much room for teenage rebellion at our house, but I did manage a little bit of clandestine behaviour. I rolled my bermuda shorts up and borrowed a friend’s bikini when I was at church camp. On Friday nights, I “dragged the gut” with Tami Gheen when we were supposed to be at a bible study. I kissed Chuck Brooks. And he was black.
But I never, never, ever once snuck myself out to a school dance. NEVER! And if I had, I wouldn’t have known what do once I got there … and therein lies the root of my lament. I’m 50 years old and I don’t know how to dance. This goes beyond knowing how to do the two step, the hustle, the shuffle, the tango, the fox trot and the macarena. Sure, I could take a class at the community college and learn a few steps. And maybe I will. But what I don’t know how to do, because I never learned, is how to dance … with abandon .. to kick up my feet, toss my hands in the air, and shake my bootie to the music FOR THE SHEAR JOY OF IT!
I parented a little differently than my folks – I like to think that I picked my issues carefully (of course, my daughter may have an entirely different opinion!). No, you CANNOT GET YOUR NOSE PIERCED or wear tiny little t-shirts that show the WHOLE WORLD your navel, but dancing … you betcha! So, when it came time for Tori to attend her first dance in middle school, it was a big night for both of us. As I dropped her off that Friday evening in front of her school, I leaned around to the back seat and said, “Tonight you get to do something I never got to do and I am VERY excited for you. I trust you completely, and I’m giving you permission to dance until they stop the music. Now go in there and dance for your mama!”
Over the years, I chaperoned many school dances and always loved watching Tori dance. I remember one evening in particular when she and her boyfriend Kyle were in rare form – the crowd parted and clapped to the beat of the band, and in the center of the dance floor were those two kids dancing like crazy! And boy were they good!
When Tori was born, I hung a little picture on the wall of her nursery that said, “God Danced the Day You Were Born.” The Old Testament says that Samuel “danced before the Lord,” the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a “time to weep and a time to dance,” in Exodus Miriam “took up the timbral and danced”, in Psalms we’re told that our mourning is turned to dancing, and my favorite … in the New Testament, the prodigal son was greeted with music and DANCING when he returned home to his father’s house. The truth is, I think God does a lot more dancing than we know. In fact, I think He believes in it.
I share this because a few weeks ago, my daughter posted a picture on Facebook of herself dancing at a friend’s wedding … and in a nano-second I was transported back to the parking lot of Siuslaw Middle School, dropping off my girl, and telling her to dance for her mama. She’s a Big City girl now, a 25 year old CPA with a promising career and an impressive 40lk, and a dog named Spiffy. She loves to throw parties and feed her friends. She loves adventure, and travel, and celebrating momentous occasions. She loves making the people around her feel special. And she LOVES to dance!
I have no idea where she gets it.