Friday, June 19, 2015

Dancing With Dad

My Dad in 1942

Father's Day is Sunday. My dad passed away 20 years ago but he remains with me through memories. One of those memories is a story published a couple years ago in Good Old Days magazine which will be my post for today. 

Dancing With Dad
By Nancy Julien Kopp

Most girls remember their first dance with joy, but I had a dilemma when mine was only days away. Not a boy ask girl dance. Instead, all the girls in my eighth grade Girl Scout troop would go to the Valentine Dance with their fathers. Not only for a dance but dinner, too. In the early fifties, that was heady stuff.

Oh, how I wanted to go, but would my dad be interested? Maybe he’d like the fact that we’d be eating and dancing in the basement of Ascension Church, the one he’d attended in his youth. Night after night went by, and I didn’t utter a word about the dance. Thirteen-year-old girls often lack confidence, and in my slightly warped early-teen thinking process, it occurred to me that if I didn’t invite him, Dad couldn’t say no. I lay awake a long time each night telling myself I had to ask. How could I go to the dance if I didn’t? 

My father disciplined my brothers and me with an iron hand, figuratively not literally. He believed in being strict, being consistent in punishments, but also fair. When he gave us a ‘No,’ he meant it, and no whining or pleading with him to change his mind was tolerated. But finally, my desire to go to the dance overcame my fear of a possible negative reaction.

At the dinner table one evening, I cleared my throat and everyone looked at me--Mom, Dad, and my two younger brothers. Heat radiated in my cheeks, and my hands shook a little when I picked up my fork and looked at my father.

“My scout troop is having a Father-Daughter Dinner Dance a week from Friday, and it’s at Ascension Church. I don’t suppose you… “  I took a deep breath. “Can we go?”

Dad looked across the table at my mother, and a smile spread across his thin face. I knew they were saying something to one another in that silent language all parents seemed to have. Then he spoke to me, and I noted a twinkle in his hazel eyes.

“I’d love to be your date to the dance”

Relief washed over me and a flicker of excitement began to build. Suddenly, a week from Friday sounded all too far away, but the big day finally arrived.

Mom had made me a new dress, perfect for the fifties decade, a wide circle skirt in a  satin-like peach fabric with black flocked flowers scattered over it.. The short-sleeved, scoop neck top was black, a color I’d never worn. It was the most grown-up dress I’d ever had. I wore black ballerina flats with it and a gold necklace of my mother’s. Dad looked so nice in a dark blue suit, a white shirt and tie. He’d shined his shoes until he could see his own reflection in them. I thought he looked a little bit like Frank Sinatra and a little bit like Bing Crosby.

We drove the few blocks to the church on that cold February evening. The aroma of roasting meat met us as we started down the steps to the lower level of the church. In my eyes, that basement looked beautiful with twisted crepe paper ribbons and hearts to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Paper lace doilies adorned the tables and small cardboard cupids stood on each one. We sat with two of my friends and their fathers at a long table. The girls all giggled a lot, and the dads talked about sports, weather and politics. We ate well-done roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans. Rolls and butter traveled up and down the table more than once, and dessert turned out to be chocolate cake. Then, it was time to dance.

The lights were dimmed and the scout leader played record after record, while every girl danced with her father. Dad had given me a few instructions before we left home. Right there in our living room with my mother and my brothers making comments. But I managed to get the box step down well enough to be able to actually dance with my dad. He whispered in my ear more than once to tell me to dance on my toes, not flat-footed, to let him lead. And he never said a word when I stepped on his well-shined shoes once or twice. I watched the other girls and their dads twirling around the dance floor. We were doing as well as any of them, and that flicker of excitement bubbled inside once again.

We danced and danced that evening. Nobody changed partners. Every girl stayed with her own father. When we got home, my mother wanted a full rundown on the dinner and the dancing. I have a feeling my report and my dad’s might have been somewhat different. I went to bed a happy girl.

I’ve never forgotten that the first time I went to a dance it was with my dad. That night, he treated me like an adult for the first time ever. I thought about it later when I went to high school and college dances. Even now, when I dance at a wedding reception with my husband of forty-nine years, I think about the things Dad taught me, about the way he whispered in my ear so no one else would know. It’s one more thing I silently thank him for.

Dad with one of his favorite cars

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