“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” -Wayne Dyer
Walking in the woods not so long ago, I was listening to music. One of my projects during the quiet days of our newly empty nest was to upload all of my old CDs onto my iPhone, stuff I have not listened to in years. Old Queen, Eric Clapton, and Beatles tunes now have a place in my playlists, alongside downloads of Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars.
With the sun shining in an azure sky and my breathing ever so slightly elevated, my mind was drifting along, unknotting some tricky work questions. When BAM, the swinging, groovy strains of Billy Joel’s River of Dreams played, and I was instantly transported. It’s what happens with music, I think.
Suddenly, I was in the living room of our tiny rent house. It was 1993 in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, bare walls streaming rays of light, dancing with my two-year-old son and four-year-old daughter. Silly, goofy dancing. Fingers pointing randomly at the ceiling, feet flexed awkwardly, and our voices raised to the roof, we danced with complete abandon. Sometimes we danced when Daddy was home, but I never let myself get quite so…weird…looking then. I danced really weird with the kids, like Julia-Louis-Dreyfus-on-Seinfeld-weird.
When my kids were little, we had lots of these silly spontaneous dance parties. Even though I was always doing workout videos, like the Cindy Crawford workout on VHS, the one where she wore a crimson leotard and perfectly tousled hair. She never broke a freaking sweat, but my best calorie burn came from these dancing moments.
Dancing really is great. Kids do it instinctively, even boys until we tell them they must stop because dancing is only for girls and put a football in their hands instead.
It’s joyful, and what could possibly be better than joyful kids? Nothing. Nothing at all.
For me, dancing with my kids gave them a chance to see me being unafraid to look foolish; and I did look foolish. I know sometimes I still do. I used to love to dance in the grocery store, and my youngest daughter would of course say, “M-o-o-o-o-o-m, staaahhhhhhp,” in that way unique to thirteen-year-old girls. Although, rich lives are built on risk-taking. Trying out for the spelling bee, swinging at that curve ball pitch, asking for that dream date, applying for that seemingly out-of-reach job, standing on an L.A. comedy club stage to do stand up, sending that novel off to a publisher; those are all risks on the same continuum. I wanted my kids to have courage, to be brave enough to live even when suffering metaphorical egg on their faces. I wanted to show them how, from the very earliest age, to be silly, awkward, and breathless.
Mostly, I wanted to create memories. Precious, life affirming memories. When I danced with my wee ones, especially when I chose some special songs to dance to, we would always associate that music with fun, family, and love. Dancing, playing, and hugging lay a firm foundation for my kiddos. In those awful schoolyard moments, when their confidence was being shaken or when their heart was broken by first love, those deep early memories, whether recollected consciously or not, held their frames. Mine too, by the way. When I twirled with them on the dance floor, whether at a wedding reception, party, or dance class, I cherished those long-ago days.
I tried to find photos of these impromptu dance parties, but I discovered I have nary a one. As I puzzled over that fact, I realized that it’s because I was too busy being connected and truly present with my kids in those moments to bother looking for a camera. I just had to trust that I would remember. And I do. So very vividly.
In the song The River of Dreams, Billy Joel sings about “something sacred [he] lost.” The childhoods of my offspring are over. Sacred, but lost. But not in my heart, not in my dancing feet.
I resolve to let the river and the beat carry me. To dance, to get up when I fall, and to always “shake my groove thing!”