Dance The Night Away

by Matt Mattheisen

    As for me and mine, we like to boogie.

    One of our favorite things to do as a family is to attend wedding receptions and dance to every song that has just the right groove.  Which is to say, practically all of them.  We’ll sit and catch up with a couple of relatives to let the chicken or roast beef settle in our guts, but as soon as the DJ starts spinning we’re out on the floor like a bunch of kids goofed up on Jolt Cola and Pixie Sticks.  Being part of a large extended Catholic family, my family, along with all of the cousins, aunts, uncles, grandchildren, and grandparents, darts to the dance floor at the first beat of a polka or long-lost disco gem.  Generational differences breakdown, marriages that are usually reserved and stoic lighten up as spouses laugh, lock elbows and promenade.  Fathers and daughters spin and hold hands in a moment of touching intimacy and protection.  Brothers and sisters forget about their fight in the car on the way over and gavotte with their shoes off and sleeves rolled up.  When the guitar intro of Van Morrison’s "Brown Eyed Girl" starts you had better hustle if you intend to find an empty spot on the floor.

    As for my own charges, they each have their own dance personality.

    My oldest son dances primarily with his hips and he loves to scandalize his godmother.  If a circle emerges on the floor where everyone takes a turn dancing in the middle, he always takes the opportunity to get in the circle to the encouragement, clapping and hollering of his audience.  I’ve noticed that he tends to evangelize the moves of James Brown more than Justin Timberlake.

    Much like her personality, my oldest daughter is gymnastic and dramatic when she dances.  She pumps and raises her arms and claps her hands like a preacher reading from the book of Romans.  She also always grabs her uncle, the one who hates to dance, and pulls him onto the floor.  He claims to never dance at wedding receptions but he has never once turned my daughter down.

    My eight-year-old daughter is all about old-school funk and soul.  If a rap tune comes on, she looks at me and shrugs her shoulders as if to say ‘Eh. Whaddya gonna do.’  But the moment some Earth Wind and Fire or Commodores shake the speakers, she immediately heads to the floor and moves with the glee of a soul newly saved.

    My youngest son dances as if he is Neo taking on a hundred Agent Smiths.  I suppose all five-year-old boys dance that way, spinning, kicking and punching the principalities of the air.  If he danced with his hands above his head swaying like seaweed I’d have cause for concern, but he dances the way I would want him to.

    As for my wife, besides being able to dance a fiery polka, she could show J-Lo a thing or two.  She is elegant, graceful, funky and surprising.  She moves in mysterious ways.

    I’ve never seen myself dance per se, but my wife says my oldest son and I dance exactly the same: smooth and all hips.  That might be the reason she and I have four children together and one on the way.  My biological parents were of an unknown Semitic and Scandinavian descent, so when I dance I reflect my half-breed, bastard beginnings.  My upper body is the reserved Lutheran while my lower body is a Jehovah praising Jew.

    Perhaps heaven is a little like a wedding dance.  Newly arrived busloads of freshly minted saints alongside their ancient siblings making the heavens sway and jump.  The choruses of the seraphim and cherubim barely exceeding the volume of hands clapping and laughter like thunder.  The throne room itself echoing and responding with delight.  Wheelchairs will be abandoned, addictions removed, lack of self-worth and mental illness will be replaced with ebullience and peace and loved ones shall be reunited from that point on into forever.  I can only imagine.

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