Dancing with a Star: A Tribute to My Mom

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

You already know the most important thing about my mom if you read my April 19th post about her recent baptism at the age of 86. Now here is the rest of the story of this crazy fun lady who brought me into this world.

She’d like you to think that this is where I got my Swedish blonde hair, but it just isn’t true

Although we live in different states, whenever I visit her in Texas, I always take her shopping at Stein Mart as one of our traditions. One day last year, in our frenzy of bargain-hunting, we breezed right past lunch time, and decided fast food was our best option to bridge the gap until dinner. As I pulled away from the drive-through with our bag of burgers, she suggested we find a space and and park instead. She took a sip of her Dr. Pepper, then looked over at me, and with a straight face said, “We can just sit here and party in the car.”

Mom does love to party, sometimes even with the most unlikely companions.

But the ultimate party for her was her 80th birthday celebration, when she invited the whole family to join her and my dad for a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas. Glitz, glamour, her kids and grandkids all around her: she couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate 8 decades of circling the sun.

To take the full measure of my mom, you have to know that one of the first things she did aboard ship was to sign up for a hip-hop dance class. This also meant she was agreeing to perform onstage with the class in the musical extravaganza on our final night at sea. You might be thinking Bingo would be a more age-appropriate activity for someone turning 80, but Mom wanted to check off a big one on her bucket list and there was no dissuading her.

Mom’s passion was fueled by her childhood dream of high-kicking with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. One of the sad stories of her life is that her mother agreed to sign her up for tap dancing lessons, but when she took her over to the local music studio, it turned out to have been a bait and switch. At the studio, instead of tap shoes her mom handed her a round-backed rental mandolin—an instrument in which this skinny little 8 year old had exactly zero interest—and told her she’d changed her mind. She and her little brother were going to learn mandolin instead. That never happened. This did instead.

In Swedish circles, the accordian is the ultimate dance band instrument.

Now, a lifetime later, SHE was in charge and not her mom. On this momentous occasion, with her family gathered around her, she decided the time had come. She was going to seize the day AND the dance floor. She recruited me to join her and each day aboard ship we—along with 25 other fun-loving revelers—learned to pop and lock and do the wop.

The night of the performance, we reported backstage to discover that our dance troupe had suffered massive attrition. Now it was down to one middle-aged lady from Japan, Mom, and me. Mom, undeterred, boldly found her mark in the center of the stage and busted her newly-learned moves to thunderous applause.

Now there are some important life lessons here: First off, don’t give up even when others disappoint you. Whether it was her mother handing her an instrument she hated, or 23 other shipmates chickening out on the night of the performance, she didn’t let that stop her from pursing her own passion.

The second thing I see is that she was really onto something with her dancing dreams. My parents may have had their disagreements, but one place they were always in sync was waltzing on the dance floor. I think one of the secrets of a marriage that has lasted over 60 years is that they never stopped jitterbugging. And this is one of the many reasons Jeff keeps hearing that I’ve signed us up for yet another dance class.

Wayne Dyer said,

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.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thanks for the lessons about enjoying life you taught us from the dance floor! Including the fact that when you hear a banjo, it is always appropriate to kick up your heels.