May I have this dance?

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By Kellie Parkin

“You don’t act like you’re thirty, Mom.” I can’t quite tell if it’s embarrassment or amazement coming from my 12-year-old’s mouth. I take a shot in the dark: “You mean I’m acting too old?” I try to hide the worry in my voice. I was excited to hit my third decade last month, but the last thing I was looking for was to be OLD.

“No mom. Younger,” she tells me. Phew. That’s a relief. “Wait – is that a good thing?” I ask her. And with that little question I nearly lose my coolness in her eyes. But I recover. Not with words – I don’t want to take that chance again. Instead I put my hands on my hips once more and follow her lead.  Hips forward. Hips back. Left side, right side. One more time – only faster – uh, was that forward first then left? Or was it right then back?  There’s no time to concentrate, so I do my best to keep up. Raise one arm, lasso and twirl. Luckily, she’s just learned the “Apache” at school recently – and only part of it – so I’m given a break between the chorus each time.  The song ends, and we both want more. But now it’s my turn. I attempt to teach Whitney a dance from my teen years. Unfortunately I haven’t done the “Electric Slide” since before she was born. With no rhythm and a terrible memory for these things, I just try to keep up with the crowd – and her, because Whitney of course catches on quite quickly.  Good thing Andrea Dennison is there to call out the moves so I can sort of look like I know what I’m doing. Sort of. Not like Andrea, who moves her long legs to the beat with grace and beauty I can only dream of. I look more like a fish out of water fuddling my way back to the sea. But I’m having a blast with my efforts, laughing out loud, dancing with my daughter, and that’s all that really matters. So what was that “30” comment, anyway? When I was her age, I didn’t think 30 was old. Old is 95 and drooling. Old is hobbling to bathroom, praying you make it in time. Old is dancing like, well, we won’t name names.  I decide that I can’t pass up this teaching moment. I see Whitney watching a woman dancing like she belongs in the movies. She’s not moving to the rhythm, she is the rhythm. Arms out and a face full of pure enjoyment, she makes art with every movement.  “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Whitney’s big eyes sparkle and she nods her head in complete agreement. “You know,” I say, preparing to drop the totally unexpected, “She just turned 50.”  Whitney stops her casual foot tapping and her big eyes get even bigger. She pulls her gaze away just long enough to look at me quizzically. I smile and nod. Yup, I want to be like her when I grow up too, I think in unison with Whitney’s thoughts as we both look back. “Thirty is not old,” I say. “And neither is 50.”  She doesn’t speak – she’s too mesmerized watching Linda Seyfert dance like the stars – but she nods in agreement and that sparkle in her eye gets brighter.  Cedar Key needs more street dances like the Jingle Bell Hop. With more than 200 people passing through Saturday night, it was highly successful despite the cold and busy traveling time of year.  Little kids – and I mean little – danced in the street next to people three and four generations older. Teens line danced with their parents – and their friends’ parents. Some of those line dances were much simpler to follow than others. I particularly liked the songs that have directions built right into the lyrics. It made it much easier to keep up. (It also helped to have Lindsay Edmunds nearby to follow her lead.) Even so, I must say sorry about your feet, Whitney. And sorry to the stranger in the red sweater – I truly hope your foot feels better this morning. And to, well, the rest of you know who you are.  Sorry.   Luckily there was a core group of dancing fanatics who looked so fantastic that the rest of us didn’t have to worry how ridiculous we looked because no one was watching us when they were out on the floor. Holy cow can Bev Ringenberg move! I’m not sure I’d ever stop if I could dance like her.  I remind myself that nobody will notice me while she’s out here – thank goodness – and I do the traditional sway back and forth with the nonchalant foot movement, pretending I know what I’m doing. At one point, Bev started a train and before long there were more than 50 people connected hands-to-hip, singing “Do the locomotion.” Janet Cook, Greg Lang and Scott Dennison made sure to do their part, too, pulling in as many people as they could.  A short time later we were all gathered in a large circle, putting one foot in and one foot out.  Young and old, we did the hokey pokey and we shook it all about.  Someone told me that community dances used to be held all the time in the Cedar Key streets.  I’m thinking it’s a tradition that needs to be brought back to life. At least several times a year. How about for the solstices and equinoxes? A celebratory dance to ring in each season, surrounded by neighbors, friends and family.   I woke up the next day expecting the worst – overslept, under-rested and really, really sore – something akin to the day after being hit by big truck driven by a pajama-clad teenager leaving the Walmart parking lot. (Trust me, it’s a bad way to start the day).  Instead, I’m up bright and early Sunday morning as the sun peeks through the forest, greeting me with the start of a brand new, wondrous day. I feel great! Rested, relaxed, and energized.  As I sit and write this column on my front porch, it’s just me, the chirping birds, and the sun blanketing the crisp, clear morning. Life can’t get much better. Unless of course we do this more often.  So, may I have this dance?