And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

~ Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance


Katie and I are waiting in line to get some dinner before the show. This week’s Mama Katie date night is a special treat. Just two days ago I serendipitously fell into two tickets to Taylor Swift, making for one extremely happy ten year-old.

The evening air is electric as fifty-two thousand people mull around the outdoor stadium, waiting for Taylor to take the stage. In the meantime, James Wesley is crooning his fabulous new single from behind us,

Five hundred channels and there ain’t much on tonight
But reality shows about some folks so-called lives
A pretty girl cries cause she don’t get a rose
But she’ll find love next year on her own show
And they call that real

Real, is the hand you hold for fifty-seven years
Real, is a band of gold trembling with fear
And it’s the first long tear down an old man’s face
Watching his angel slippin’ away
His heart so broke, it ain’t never gonna heal
I call that real

I put my arms around my girl and sway to the music. She looks up at me with a sheepish smile as I sing along with James. As he hits the chorus, the music builds and I hug my girl and swing her in time to the beat.

“Mama,” she asks, “why do you always dance in public?”

My girl is ten. She’s watched some friends decide that moms are insufferably uncool and should serve no purpose beyond doling out cash and food and driving them from one place to the next with as little interaction as possible.

She isn’t there yet. Hopefully there’s no ‘yet’. Shuddup, a mom can dream. For her, while I may not be exactly ‘cool’ anymore, I’m still silly and kinda entertaining and sometimes even funny. Mostly, she clings hard to the idea that Mama can still make things all right. And perhaps because her life at home is a little different than most, this time alone with her Mama still carries a premium above all else.

But she’s still ten. She’s OMG people are like LOOKING at us ten and MAMA, you’re totally embarrassing me ten and even though no one is actually looking at me I feel like every eye in the place is on me because, well, I’m ten.

And so the question.

“Mama, why do you always dance in public?”

I often stop to think before answering her questions. Gun-shy after our first spectacularly failed sex talk many years ago, I often question my initial response, think about possible consequences and measure my words carefully as I proceed. Not this time. I don’t hesitate for a second. This one I got.

“Baby, I dance because I choose joy. I choose to live in each and every moment that I can and I choose to FEEL it – whatever it may be in that moment. If I’m moved to dance I let myself dance. Because I would choose joy every single time over worrying about what other people may be thinking.”

She shrugs and slips an arm around my waist.

We turn and look around the stadium together. It’s still light out, but the air is changing. It will soon be twilight, I tell her – that magical time when the world looks and feels enchanted.

I put my arm around her shoulder and whisper in her ear, “besides, nobody’s really looking anyway.”

She looks around and decides I’m not lying. She smiles at me and sways a little hip into mine. James ramps it up just in time.

Real, like too much rain falling from the sky
Real, like the drought that came around here last July
It’s the damn old weevils and the market and the weeds
The prayer they prayed when they planted the seeds
And the chance they take to bring us our next meal
I call that real

Later in the evening, right in the middle of the concert, my girl will begin to cry. She’ll ask if we can sit down. She’ll crawl into my lap and cling to me for comfort, burying her head in my chest. “Mama,” she’ll finally say, “things have just been so hard lately. I just wish they didn’t have to be so hard.”

And I will say, “I know, baby, I know. I wish I could make it easier.”

She’ll sniffle into my shirt.

I will say, “Ya know what, sweet girl? That’s why we dance.”

She will look confused.

“Honey,” I will tell her, “sometimes life isn’t easy. It doesn’t always work the way we want it to. Things will get better; I promise. But so too, it’ll be rough sometimes. Life works like that – in cycles.”

She nods. At ten, she already knows so much more than she should about life’s ups and downs.

“So when there are moments of joy, we take them. Remember how I said that we have to allow ourselves to feel them?”

She nods into my chest.

I pick up her chin and wipe the tears from her beautiful face.

“We dance, baby, because those moments make these just a little easier.”

She smiles at me. And in the chair, holding onto each other, we sway to the music.


39 thoughts on “dance

  1. Excellent! Exactly what I needed to read today and worded so perfectly. It reminded me that it’s important to celebrate ALL the good.
    Thank you

  2. …and we’re often dancing as fast as we can.
    You’re right, Sweetheart. When given the chance, always choose joy and keep dancing.

    I love you,

  3. so glad you had that moment together – just the two of you – to dance. and feel the joy. She’ll remember that always, and tell her daughters all about it. That’s the gift of parenting right there.

  4. I love the song by Lee Ann Womack! it always makes me a little teary, as did this post. I hope I can speak as beautifully and soulfully to my girl(s)….one coming in just a little more than 3 months. I can’t help but think about the challenges our family will face. The challenges she will face, assuming ( and praying ) she is NT. If she is, or isn’t….there will be either way. I will embrace and love her as much as I do her big sister. And hope for even half the eloquence and perfection with which you speak to Katie. God bless. All my love xo

    • oh, barb, you’ll love em both to the moon and back. and as long as you speak to them from the heart, that’s all the eloquence they’ll ever need.


  5. You ain’t kidding life is hard, and sometimes DOAM, dancing is all I got. Good for you for making the most of those special moments.

  6. Beautiful; you’ve brought me to tears yet again, but happy tears this time. I need to spend more time alone with my NT son. He’s 8 and deserves these special times too. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. My husband and our 11 y/o NT daughter were at that very same concert…for the very same reasons. Special time, in this case, alone with Daddy, for an amazing girl who sacrifices so much for her brother.
    Last year while in the local grocery store together, “Mustang Sally” began to play on the pumped in Muzak. I started singing and dancing and my daughter laughed and fled several aisles away! I sing and dance because I can….because I must. I love that quote about dancing in the rain instead of waiting for a storm to pass. Heck – there are days when I put on a full-out Broadway production. Because I can 🙂

    • ha! love it. i’d have been right there with you. (and katie would have been hanging out with your daughter! :))

  8. Aww… Man! Once again I am reduced to a blubbering puddle. You. Are. Awesome. I’m going to have to file this post away somewhere for future (repeated) reference! Thank you for being you.

  9. This is just lovely. And count me in as a fan of both your sentiment and the one in the Lee Ann Womack song, which I think is not just about choosing joy, but about choosing to embrace life, all of it, even the messy parts.

    PS, is it wrong of me to really want to hear the story about the botched sex ed talk? 🙂

  10. dernit woman *sniff, sniff* you got me *sniff*. i knew that was coming b/c of your FB status about dancing and u got to me anyway, lol. great writing.

  11. This is just what I needed today. My 2 year old son started his ANA therapy last week and it has been a rough start with lots of tears (from him and me. It was nice to be reminded that things go in cycles and we need to dance when we can. I love the song by Darius Rucker that says” it wont be like this for long”. It helps me to get through those tough cycles.

    • ooh, i like that one too! also a big fan of ‘when you’re going through hell (keep on moving)’ .. 🙂

      whatever it takes, right?

  12. hope the concert was a good time, provided some sort of break from the heaviness, the sadness. hopefully she took your cue and danced a little, gave herself up to the music.

  13. Do you recall our going through a very bad storm on the boat when you were just a little girl. You were sitting lashed to me in a life jacket in the pilot seat as the green water came over the windshield, and when you asked me what we should do I told you to sing with me as loud as we could. It’s sort of like dancing rather than giving in to feeling afraid. I love that the lesson has moved along but with much greater eloquence from the little girl that sang for hours with her dad to get through the storm.
    I love who and what you have become. Katie is so very fortunate to have you.

  14. I love your way….. a lesson taught without anyone knowing your teaching…. I am so blown away by your strength and that of your daughters’ and I’m so happy that you find time to dance!! Just a beautiful post!!
    thank you….

  15. get those dancing shoes on whenever the mood takes you! love the post, love your family – love you!! Happy dancing x

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