I couldn’t eat at the reception for my son’s wedding.
There was plenty of food, and I liked it just fine. But halfway through the meal I remembered that there would be a mother-son dance and we hadn’t practiced. We’d barely talked about it, weeks before. My stomach tensed and my throat closed up and I couldn’t eat another bite.
I ought not to be so silly. It’s just that the idea of dancing, in front of people, all alone – it was terrifying. I would look awkward. I would step wrong. I wouldn’t follow correctly. I would trip. I would be ugly and embarrassing and shameful.
I kept breathing, kept waiting, kept smiling, kept praying secretly in words I could neither hear nor understand. Did you see what I wrote today about being brave? I was brave. The father-daughter dance came first. The thoughtful and attentive DJ came over just before announcing it to let me know I wasn’t being left out; their dance would be at this time, then a few more activities, then later the mother-son dance. The bride and her father danced; I didn’t really watch, not that I remember much; it was behind me and I was dealing with fear. Other daughters and fathers were invited to dance. My daddy was at the back of the room and I saw him stand. I stood to go meet him. The music kept playing. People congratulated me; they didn’t realize I was going to dance with my daddy. I got to him, worried, afraid the music would end and I’d walk all the way through the room and onto the dance floor with him for no reason, unsure if he really wanted to dance or if he felt comfortable at all, and fearful on my own account because it was dancing. I hugged him. He asked how I was doing. “OK.” Half a breath caught in my throat. “Mostly OK.” And then I started crying on his shoulder, and he gave me his hanky. That’s what he’s always done. He’s always carried one, folded neatly in his pocket, ready for a lady’s tears.
I cried out the fear and held onto the hope he offered with his hanky, hope that I could be brave and strong. I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me, that I should always remember that. He’s never said it like that, “always remember that.” It made me tell him the same, that I always love him. It made me realize he won’t always be here to tell me, so it’s important to remember. We didn’t dance after all, but I’ll never forget the moment with him.
I did better after that. The mother-son dance came, and I faced my son and we danced. He’d chosen “Unforgettable” by Nat and Natalie Cole. Of course that made me smile; he knows me well. I only felt a little awkward, and he smiled and made polite conversation to put me at ease. I stepped as well as I could, and followed acceptably, I think – at least I didn’t trip. I didn’t feel ugly. And no one told me later that I embarrassed or shamed them. He thanked me for all I’d done to make the weekend special. We hugged and I told him I loved him and was proud of him and happy for him, and he said he loved me.
It was just right.