Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dancing With My Papa

I spent the majority of my childhood with my grandparents.

In the summer, mostly because my granny didn't want us to have a heat stroke, my grandparents would find fun things for us to indoors.

There are few summers I remember quite like the summer of  '92, and "The Record Player".

My grandparents, like many people who lived through the shock of the Great Depression, didn't believe in wasting things or throwing things away. Growing up, the boxes of records in my grandparent's home were a landmark of sorts. There were tons of them. Little boxes...big boxes...suitcases full. grandparent's didn't have a record player. I just shrugged off the exorbitant amount of unused vinyl as weirdness, and lumped the boxes of records in with the other things I didn't understand about my grandparents; the tools all over my papa's truck, my granny's canisters of old buttons and their penchant for creating new, exciting meals from leftover ones.

In spite of how crazy my grandparents were, on occassion, they would do things that made sense. When I was seven years old, my grandparents bought a record player. Of course, this was the early 90's so there was also a dual tape deck, some big ass speakers and a record player. I like to think of the summer of '92 as a three month period that greatly shaped my musical interests.

It was during this summer I was first introduced to The BeeGee's, Ronnie Milsap and Starland Vocal Band. I would sit in front of the record player and play vinyl after vinyl; discovering hidden treasures within each cardboard cover.

It was during this summer I learned Micheal Jackson was more than a pigment-confused man. He'd once been a small child whose voice could make even the most rhytmically challenged person tap their foot along with the beat. I remember listening to Leapy Lee, and acting out all of the parts to "Little Arrows", while trying to shoot my brother with a Nerf Gun. (It wasn't until I was older that my vision of what Leapy Lee looked like was completely shattered. I pictured him to be blonde and cherub-like...he sort of looked like a Beatles impersonater)

I spent many hours perched in front of the record player, but the times I remember the most fondly...were the times I spent dancing with my papa. My papa always came home for his lunch. He would eat, drink his tea and then clap his hands and say, "Alright, sis...let's dance!"
Fats Domino.
Chuck Berry.
Brenda Lee.

We would dance two or three dances. If the song was upbeat we would do "The Bop", and if a slow song came on...I would stand on my papa's feet and we would dance around the tiny living room.

These were moments when my papa would seem younger. The stress of the day would melt away, the lines on his face would disappear and I could see glimpses of the young boy who took my granny dancing on the weekends all those years ago.

While dancing with my papa, I felt like I understood who he was, and where he had been.

Last night, I went to a ball with my papa. As I danced with my grandpa, I thought back to the times spent dancing in front of the record player, and I felt the years of my life reverse.

Although I am grown, and in my heels stood nearly eye to eye with my grandfather...last night I felt like I was seven years old again.

The crowd went away, the venue dissolved and in my mind...I was back in my grandparent's living room. Only now, I do see him a bit differently. I noticed that his dance steps weren't quite as smooth as they'd once been. The lines on his face don't really disappear like they used to. Last night, I realized...these special moments that I share with my papa aren't going to always be available to me. It would seem, that even my grandfather isn't immune to the curse of aging.

Last night was a night that I will remember my entire life.

How nice my papa looked.
How many compliments he recieved on his fedora.
The look of shock on his face when not one, but two women asked him to dance.
The frightened , but delighted look on his face when he was doing The Cha-Cha slide.

The way he laughed and asked, "Do you remember when we got the record player? How we used to play records, and dance in the living room all the time when you were little?"
Yes, Papa, I do.

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