Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Finders Keepers (Greater Atlanta)

Tina, Nina (2), Nathan (3), Joy, Tanya, Noah (1) and me

Nathan and Noah front and center while Nina finds her groove in the background

I am hyper self conscious about dancing. Always have been and barring a miracle probably always will be. My earliest memory of this crippling self consciousness is a Grade 7 dance at my school in Harare. It was there that I started my distinguished career as a wall flower. Around that same time I was at a party hosted by a French friend of our family, Guilhem. I have this vivid image of standing against the wall and watching in abject fascination as his roommate Jean Luc danced with complete abandon, utterly unconcerned whether people were watching or not. Part of me desired that freedom. The other part was horrified of what others would think of me. I'll let you guess what part won the battle.

There have been brief moments when I allowed myself to dance in front of people. I remember dancing in front of my housemates the year I lived in SouthWest Philaldelphia, but I don't remember what precipitated that MC Hammer moment. Heidi and Peter Dillon's wedding also comes to mind. In fact, I think there is video evidence of that still floating around somewhere. I am pretty sure that one was due to some arm turning by a pushy DJ. Adam Severin's wedding in LA is the only other time I can think of. I remember a few glasses of wine and a song by Outkast aiding and abetting that affront against the dance floor. But overall, 36 years have come and gone and I can count the number of times I have let myself dance and be free on one hand ... and still have fingers left over.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. The rare dance, Fall 1995

I disclose all this because on Wednesday night I was sitting in a suburb of Atlanta with my host Joy Tyler and some of her extended family. There were three children in the room: Nathan, age 3, Nina age 2 and Noah, age 1. Music was playing from their PS2 and all of a sudden an episode of The Soul Train broke out, kids edition. The good news was I wasn't a wallflower. I was a couchflower instead. I sat there and watched them get taken away by the music, bouncing around the room and grooving to the beat without an ounce of self consciousness. There are few things as innately joyous as watching kids dancing. It goes on a short list with puppies and energetic gospel choirs as things that immediately make me smile and enjoy life just a bit more.

All the adults in the room were encouraging the kids as they danced. Tina exhorted her daughter.

"Go ahead." She called out playfully at as her daughter Nina strutted across the room.

"Find it Nina." Her daughter drew deeper into the music, swinging her arms and pursing her lips.

"Keep it, baby. Hold on to it." Nina now had her rhythm. There wasn't anything that was going to disturb that groove. That is, until an errant dance kick from her cousin Nathan caught her just above the eye. That brought a brief crying intermission to the dance party but within three minutes a hug had been administered and an apology proferred and they were out on the dance floor again ... finding the rhythm and then keeping it in their grasp.

That scene would never have happened in my living room growing up. It just isn't a part of the DNA of my family. Or maybe it is that Peter, Paul and Mary isn't exactly dance music. (You try to dance to Polly Von and then tell me how successful you were.) Needless to say, experiencing this alien scene made me a bit envious. I'm going to put "lose my self consciousness about dancing" on my bucket list along with learning Spanish, studying guitar and being in a community theater production of Rent as Roger.

For now, I can still enjoy watching others dance. It was a joyous way to spend part of the night before Thanksgiving. So I give thanks to Joy and Tina and Tanya and Nathan and Noah and Nina. I found joy in that apartment ... and I've kept it in my memory. Finders Keepers.