Monthly Archives: January 2024

And we danced…

During the holidays, I think about my parents, gone for over a decade, and my brother who died a few years ago. They each left a palpable hole in my life, and my heart. My father was quiet and reliable, a reassuring lap and as comforting as the sun rising each morning.  My mother was a dreamer, a warm, loving, gregarious woman, a bit of a flirt, who always had a ready hug. My brother is nearly impossible to describe.  A true individual, a wild and determined spirit who could not be told anything but what his soul dictated. He loved hard, played harder, laughed easily and sent himself to an early grave doing it all full throttle with no regrets.

Growing up in my family was unique in some ways. My brother was nine years older, my sister, who I still have in my life, six years before me and I was the “the caboose.” The church, where my parents met in the choir, was the center of our social life. We attended services Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night prayer meeting. We had Sunday night potlucks and summer Bible School. We didn’t go to movies on Sunday. So you might think we were a buttoned up, serious sort heeding only a life that kept us on  the staight and narrow.  But we were so much more than that.

Our house, when money was not being discussed, was full of laughter and people from all walks of life. People my mom might have talked to for ten minutes in the grocery store that she would ask to “stop by” for tea and her famous homemade brownies. My grandfather who lived to be 103, was often around captivating us with one of his tales.  He was a great story teller and had an even better sense of humor. Neighbors came and went, some not even bothering to ring the doorbell. There were animated discussions of politics, religion, school curriculum and the weather.

Snow days were a great neighborhood event. Living in West Virginia, our neighborhood was hilly so the fathers would block off the steepest street with saw horses, build a bonfire in a huge black metal garbage can and we would all sled, moms and dads included, until dark when the last of the marshmellows had been roasted on the dwindling flames of the fire.

But what I loved most about my family is that we danced. Just us. Whoever was in the room or in the mood. We would push the coffee table against the couch to clear the floor. Someone, most often my dad or my sister, would being out the faux leather suitcase-like turntable case, plug it in and flip the lid.  We usually played some old Mills Brothers album. Setting the speed to 33 rpm, we’d drop the needle on the vinyl and after a few seconds of muted crackling, “Paper Doll” would fill the air.  My dad was shy but on a dance floor he fourished.  He took my mom’s hands in his and he would lead her around the room. She would smile up at him as though he was the only man ever born and whenever she missed a step or bumped into his shoe, she would throw in a girlish giggle and keep gliding.

As kids, my brother and sister and I joined in with our own version of “gliding” and later we were the DJ playing The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, if my brother was home from college.  He always did hitchhiker, thumbs out pointing directions just below his hips while my sister and I just tried to look cool.

So on this first day of 2024, I passed this photo of my dad and me dancing at my bestfriend’s wedding and I am reminded to dance.  With music blasting in my car, or with my grandkids or alone in my kitchen. Forget what others might think or what is happening in the world and for a moment find the joy in letting go.

Just dance.

As Mark Twain wrote so perfectly, “Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth”