I was 11 and in fifth grade. I was part of the in crowd, true, but I was not the girlfriend type. I was the best girl friend of the boys. My girl friends were their girlfriends. In the Quonset hut at the Air Force Base elementary school, we gathered for dances starting in February. They were probably held monthly. By then, several of the girls and boys were paired up. Pretty, peppy Karen Mobley was going steady with Tim Scott. Tim was dreamy. Tim was my friend. Karen was my friend.
Karen was sick one day. So at the dance party late in the school day, Tim was dancing with me. Because I was his friend. And I was Karen's friend. But I'll never forget dancing with him. It was divine. Even if we didn't dance too close. Even if we didn't dance too close to the slow songs. Even if. Afterward, people were teasing me about not dancing too close to him. I was hurt. But I was cool, and quick on my feet even at that age. "I didn't want to dance too close to him or Karen might be upset."
I'm 14 and a freshman in high school. I've been "dating" a friend's older brother, a 10th grader at an all-boys Catholic school. I'm invited to his school dance. I wear a dark green blouse. I wear a darker green flowered long skirt. I have my aunt paint my fingernails for God's sake. It is not a success. And we don't stay together long at all. Secretly, I think it's because I can't dance.
I'm nearly 16, and my parents are going through a nasty divorce. The one piece of advice, the one shred of explanation my father turns to is that my mother liked to dance. And he didn't. And so they didn't dance. "Learn to dance," he tells me in his morose, alcohol-fueled manner.
I never do dance. Even when I go to my boyfriend's senior prom when I am 16. Even when I go to my own senior prom when I am 17. Or when I go to a formal dance when I am a freshman in college. Even when I am listening to Bruce Springsteen in concert. And almost even when I am at my (first) wedding. For that occasion, my new husband and I danced to one song. And I bopped around to the few Springsteen songs my new (now clearly has to be ex-) husband let me play at our wedding.
Fast forward too many years. I'm a non-dancer at the tender age of 35. My first born son is colicky for several weeks. There is no known cause. There is no known cure. But somehow, listening to loud Bruce Springsteen and rocking out, held tightly to my chest, he calms enough that I do it four hours a night for three weeks. I ache. But I dance. I dance and realize that this must be what dancing is. And I finally know my dad was right. And I'm glad I've learned to dance.
[Sunday Scribblings' scribblers are dancing this week.]