For me, it was that incredible memorable family dance moment.
The band was playing what could easily be described as the music of many – the type familiar and beloved by both the young and the old, not too loud and not too slow – music for the ages.
The reception was in full swing. And at that particular moment, I looked around and noticed it immediately: all of us on the dance floor were related. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, moms, dads, and grandchildren. All of us were happy, laughing, smiling, and . . . dancing.
Admittedly, we could have never described the dance we were dancing as organized. It wasn’t refined, or symmetrical. It wasn’t pretty, cultured, or structured. In fact, if analyzed, it was fairly clunky and chunky. No one had rehearsed, and although the family talents are many, there are no professional dancers in the mix. Just a group of folks ranging in age from zero to 80+ who were happy, laughing, smiling, and . . . dancing.
And, of course, it wasn’t dancing in the very traditional sense. Rather than pairing up in a Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers type manner, the dance floor resembled more of a brood, a clutch, a gaggle, or a flock of individuals moving at the same tempo, in the same rhythm, using the same motions, to the same music, dancing that potentially awkward and always interesting family dance.
Large gatherings, such as this one happened to be, are not uncommon in my family. With six siblings at the core plus twenty-one immediate cousins, all family gatherings end up on the large to very large size. Birthdays, graduations, holidays, weddings just turn into big, giant family celebrations. Luckily, in my family, each relative not only seems to know every other relative well enough to dance, but all family members seem to understand each other and have an over-arching acceptance of and pride in all kinds of similarities and differences among the group.
And with family dancing, it is the differences that can and do shine brightly.
At that particular moment, several folks in the teenage set were not only dancing, but singing madly along with the band leader, unabashed and unafraid of displaying their singing (or non-singing) aptitude.
One family member, who could normally be described as quiet and pensive, in a very brave move, having been coaxed to the dance floor by the young but married cousins, displayed some serious dance motion which added a new piece of delight throughout all.
An uncle was arm in arm with a tiny niece, tapping his foot, simultaneously swinging her in step with the beat of the music, while my sister and I held hands over the backs of our respective spouses with whom we were dancing.
As the music reached a crescendo, with bride and groom center stage – the rest of us broadly encircling them – our pop, a less than spry 80+ year old and only remaining grandparent, decided to join the group. With his walking more of a chore than a pleasure, his participation surprised all of us. We stared as he edged so gently and carefully towards the middle and watched as the wall of his grandchildren and children parted to accommodate and include him.
He didn’t know it at the time, nor did we, but he was dancing his final family dance. And it was magical.
His dance moves were quaint and soulful. They were deliberate and slow and filled with youthful joy. As he cautiously swayed to the sounds, his family did the same, holding our breath hoping he was successful and hoping the moment wouldn’t end. For as he danced, he exuded an aura that captured a lifetime of happiness in a family dance that he had helped to generate and foster.
Without a doubt, it was a family dance for the ages.
And though usually during the height of a wedding celebration in the middle of a dance floor surrounded by generations of family, it isn’t the moment to capture a serious life lesson. But, that’s the magic part of it.
It was obvious to me that the family dance was not for a moment about music and movement. The band may have played and feet may have shuffled, but it was very incidental to the rhythm of the event. We were throwing away our challenges and our barriers. We were delighting in the common family bonds that we had cultivated for many years, and we were family dancing.
I don’t necessarily like the following adage. It seems tired and overused, but it also seems to be true that life isn’t a short sprint, but rather a long, long journey with moments of challenge, of concern, of worry along with moments of joy, hope, and celebration.
I journey with many family members with whom I sometimes disagree, often disappoint, and always seem to need more than I have the ability to help. But with enough time and with lots of concerted effort, I am hoping that my journey can include that one last magical moment, that perfect storm, that extraordinary symbiosis, the family dance.
I just have to plan ahead and work hard. I say bring it on!