Noticing that I had been moping, my mom prodded me into talking.
“I don’t know how to dance,” I confessed.
She laughed and pursued her questioning, gradually finding out that we were having a dance at school. I didn’t tell her that there was a girl I kind of liked, but Mom probably figured that out.
She marched me to the record player and pulled out a couple of 78 RPM records.
One of them was “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” We didn’t try to imitate Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
I was 12 years old and felt awkward dancing with my mother, but I guessed it was my only chance to learn.
My mom had done her share of dancing despite growing up in a strict Baptist household. She called it “hard-shell Baptist.”
She’d had to wait until she went to Southeastern to start dancing, which contributed to the end to her college career.
A busy body reported to my grandmother that Opal was both dancing and serving beer at a restaurant. My grandmother went straight to Hammond and brought her wayward daughter home.
Mom’s dancing lessons were fine, but the concept was foreign to me. Learning to lead was harder than following the beat.
I did learn enough that when my friends and I discussed the upcoming dance at recess, I announced I wouldn’t be just standing with my back to the wall as half of the guys ended up doing.
The dance was in the school library during the last hour of class, and the music came from a phonograph, though the records were the more modern 45 RPMs with the big holes in the middles.
The girl I wanted to dance with proved to be one of the most popular ones in class, so I had to wait my turn, practicing with some of the other girls.
One of the most awkward parts of being at a first dance is summoning the courage to ask a girl to step onto the floor with you. Another is realizing that almost all of the girls are taller than you when you’re 12 years old.
If we had slow danced really close together, the teacher probably would have separated us, but that didn’t prove a problem. We danced almost at arm’s length.
Before the bell, I got to dance once with the girl I liked. We danced far enough from each other that I didn’t step on her patent leather shoes. I can’t remember what we said to each other, or if we talked at all.
Still it had the thrill of most rites of passage, and I decided on the bus home that I would get better at the two-step.
My mother wanted details as soon as I walked in.
I confirmed I had danced and had danced with more than one girl without accident. I guess that’s about all a mother can expect from a 12-year-old boy when the subject has anything to do with girls and dancing.