Note: This column appears in the 12/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/24 issue of the Peoria Times
We have a really good friend who is like a modern day saint. She is so insanely kind that it naturally exposes my own selfishness, yet being in her presence somehow makes me feel like a better person. She has adopted eight children out of foster care, and was the driving force behind our own decision to get involved as well. In that respect we have her to thank for our own family.
Her younger girls are all enrolled in dance school, and they had a big Christmas recital last weekend that ended with an all-important daddy-daughter dance. For this, the men of their family were employed for service, including our friend’s own dad and the girls’ oldest brother. Another brother was supposed to take part until it was discovered that this year’s dance included a lift. He was out, not yet big enough to lift up his sister. So …
I agreed to be the dance partner for our friend’s five-year old daughter with whom I have a special rapport. By that I mean every time we go over their house she jumps right into my arms, hangs around my neck, and implores me to go to the backyard with her and pretend that I am the monster and she is the princess.
Apparently, she had asked her mom from the beginning if I could be her partner. However, after it was decided that I would be, and I continued to feign an exaggerated level of excitement, she said to me, “I know you’re happy to be my dance partner, but you need to relax, okay?”
Okay. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to practice with her before the actual recital. Her mom provided a sheet with the dance steps, and so I practiced diligently the night before with my wife instead. It was very romantic, the two of us in our pajamas, with toothbrushes hanging out of our mouths, holding a sheet of paper, and botching dance moves to no music.
The girls had a “peppermint twist” number early in the show, so my dance partner was in her red and white striped peppermint outfit, with white gloves and a hat tilted to the side when I met her backstage. She jumped into my arms. I asked her if she knew the dance moves and she shrugged her shoulders. I was a little worried.
I needed to relax. When we all came out onstage to thunderous applause, I realized that all the girls and most of the dads were simply mimicking the moves of the instructors on the side of the stage. So much for practice. No one was in synch, but it didn’t really matter. The lift was successful. No one was dropped.
When the routine finished, I showed her how to wave to the crowd like a princess on a parade float, with a cupped hand. In that crowd was my own daughter, clapping happily. In that moment I did wonder how different both girls’ lives may be were it not for our friend, the saint. Mine, too. I’ve come to realize that “dad” is a role I very much enjoy playing both onstage and in real life, even if there is a lot of mimicking involved.
“Monster” is pretty fun, too. Merry Christmas.