On any given Saturday night, you can find my soon to be 90 year young mother at the Pumpkin Ridge Grange Hall dance.  I know this for two simple reasons.  1.  We, her 9 living children, her many grandchildren, and great-grandchildren celebrated her 80th birthday at said dance.   2.  My mother lives approximately 345 yards from my front door, which in itself lends for a small book of many, many stories.   But for this occasion, it is simply to inform you that typically on Sunday afternoon, we will share a short conversation about how the dance was.

A few of the recurring comments from her have been about the dropping numbers in attendance and her concerns for driving herself home in the dark. 

SIDE NOTE 1:  Yes, she still drives, and very well for the most part.  But for that one exception a couple years back.  While running late for church, and being sure that God would forgive her, she ignored the local speed limit, just this one time (wink-wink).   She was unable to hold the road on that last country corner.  The van rolled several times but she miraculously walked out with just a few scratches.  Her request to the EMT’s when they arrived on the scene was that while 3 of her sons lived within 3 miles of the accident—was it really necessary to bother them? They might not be as understanding as the nice EMT’s about how this could have happened to anyone. 

BACK TO THE LESSONS:  It was the middle of last week while having the recurring conversation about the latest happenings at the dance, when two simultaneous thoughts came to me.  1.  Mother’s Day was this coming Sunday, and 2, I hadn’t gotten her anything yet.   In a moment of inspiration, or confusion from one too many thoughts in my head, I commented…”Mother, why don’t I take you to the dance this Saturday night?”   If the fact that her hearing aids were sitting on the kitchen countertop, the fact that she was continuing her conversation about who was and wasn’t in attendance the previous week was my clue that she didn’t hear my comment.   I waited for a pause in her story, when I proposed the question again.   “You mean, like a date?” 

And so it was set.  I would pick her up at 7:30 pm, drive up to the Grange Hall, share a few dances, and call it a night.  

Thus, just some of the lessons I can learn on a date with your mom!

LESSON #1:  NEVER TOO SOON TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW!  It came in the form of a phone call from Mother on Friday afternoon.  While I thought I would jump in the river and learn the dance steps AT THE DANCE, Mom had the thought it might be well for me to stop by the night before the dance, we could spend some time going over the steps to the 3 dances that they do at the Grange.   Even as I write this, I’m not completely sure if it was so that I wouldn’t completely embarrass myself, or her. 

LESSON #2:  SOMETIMES 3 MEANS 6:  True, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but when mother was teaching me the steps to dance # 6, a little line dance they do near the end of the evening, it even dawned on me that there are in fact more than 3 dances to learn.   Suffice it to say, while I had the basics to the Foxtrot and the 2 Step, the Waltz was playing several tricks in my head, but now I have the Polka, and several more that I can’t ever pronounce, let alone dance.  While there may be 3 main dances, be ready for many, many more.

LESSON # 3- GPS VS. CO-PILOT MOTHER:  While I had only been to the grange hall once before, and it had been some 10 years, I felt pretty confident that I knew how to get there.  Just one of the benefits of driving mom to the dance was do discover there are in fact a multitude of possibilities of how to get to our destination.  Several different routes for the way up and even more options for the return trip.  Those guys and gals at Garmin have nothing on Phyllis.  So as not to be bored with just the directions, mom filled me in with the history to each of the dancers that would most likely be in attendance that night.  History is code for life stories. 

SIDE NOTES # 2 & 3:

A.-THE BUILDING:  Pulling into the rock driveway, parking in the grass lot, climbing the grand stairs, walking through the large double doors that open up to the pecan wood dance floor with the Band already playing the live music from the stage opposite where you just entered.  I couldn’t help but stop, to take a moment and just sense in my bones the history of this hall that was built in 1952.   I could hear the distant echoes of the music, the laughter, and the dance steps that have taken place just about each and every Saturday night since 1953.

B.-THE BAND:  This particular Saturday night, and for that matter, most dance nights, the band consists of a fine gentleman on the drums, a woman who is master of ceremonies and even more a master on the piano.   This particular saint of a woman wears many hats.  She selects the songs to be played.  She decorates the hall.  And at the close of each evening, during refreshment time, she updates everyone in attendance on the status of those who are not there and closes the evening with at least 2 jokes.   Sitting next to her is her more than capable sidekick on the accordion.  Rounding out the quartet is a forever-young woman on the bass guitar.    I know, the music is live, loud, dead spot on and all for the cover cost of $2.00. 

LESSON #4-WHEN MOM TALKS, BEST LISTEN: Just one of the initiation rights for any new member or guest is to get introductions to each and every member in attendance.  I had no idea that the history lesson on each person that mom shared on the drive up would be so useful so soon. 

LESSON #5-WHEN A FOX TROT IS LIKE A WALTZ IS LIKE A POLKA: On the far side of the stage is a sandwich board that lists a. the current dance, b. the dance on deck, and c. the dance in the hole.  As I sat for the first few moments of that first dance, looking at the fact that the Fox Trot was the current dance, with the waltz on deck, and with moms words from the lessons the night before…1-2 and 3, 1-2 and 3, my pulse was no doubt in the neighborhood of 150 BPM.   The aha moment came while watching the other gentleman on the dance floor, taking in their every step, I notice one stepping to a fox trot, one a two-step, a third….well I’m not sure.  Mother noticed my observation, leaned over to me and commented, “It really doesn’t matter which step you use, as long as you enjoy.”  And with that, we got up and I made my first attempt at the Fox Trot around the room.

LESSON #6- LESSONS FROM THE CHAIR:  There are a few “special” dances each Saturday evening.  And even thought I knew it was coming, I could do very little to keep the fears at bay.  It’s tagged “the chair dance”.  A number of chairs are lined up close to the stage and the women who care to dance line up behind the chairs.   My mission this particular dance was to take one trip around the room with my partner, (my mom) drop her off at the end of the chair line, walk to the front of the line and take another trip around the room with a new partner.  Thus, the nerves.  It’s one thing to dance with my mom, a whole ‘nother thing to attempt with someone I’d only met minutes before.  The dance step for this particular event was a simple 2 step, which while not even close to flawless, I believe if you were observing me with my mother as a partner, you would have at least recognized it as a two-step.  About ¼ way around the room with my first new partner, she was kind enough to say, “You’re doing great, (a pause) but let me show you how to really do this!”   And with that statement I discovered what it felt like to follow, as opposed to leading.

About ¼ way around the room with my 2nd new partner, I had a Déjà-Vu moment when she commented, “You’re doing great honey, but let me show you how to really do this.”  I learned that women at the grange don’t mind leading, and quite frankly, I don’t mind following.

LESSON #7- JUST DO IT:  I had the very great pleasure of dancing with at least 7 different wonderful women that evening.   Each sharing their encouragement and tips.   But the one thing, the one statement they each shared was, “I wish my son would take me dancing!”.   SO HERE IT IS GUYS & GALS:  WHATEVER IT IS YOUR MOTHER LIKES TO DO, SIT ON A PORCH AND CHAT, TAKE A WALK IN THE PARK, TAKE A DRIVE IN THE COUNTRY, IT IS THE GIFT OF YOURSELF AND YOUR TIME, THAT WILL MEAN MORE THAN ANY FLOWERS, ANY CARDS, ANY CANDY, AND LEAF BLOWER THAT YOU COULD GIVE HER.  I got lucky, and fell into spending time with my mother doing something she dearly loves to do.  A week later, she is still talking about it.  I am embarrassed and even a little ashamed that I have never thought of this before.  I promise you, it will not be another year, another 6 months, or even another 2 months before we do this again.  It is just too easy to give so little that means so much.   While I don’t know what the enjoyment or passion that your mother, your father, your spouse, your significant other, your son, your daughter is.   I do know it exists.   So here’s your assignment.    FIGURE OUT WHAT IT IS, AND DO IT.   It’s that simple.

And for heaven’s sake…..Have FUN….Fred!

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  1. Fred, this is delicious! Thank you so much for sharing this touching story. My son is 22 and while dancing would not be something he would readily agree to, he is generous with his time. This post brought with it an acute awareness that he will not always be so available. The gift of time is truly precious. Say hello to Phyllis for me!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I loved this! You’re a good man Fred, and Phyllis has raised some fine sons. (Her daughters are pretty great too!)

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