When A Family Dances

The moment snuck up on me on a night when I was focused on finding the exact one hundred fifty words I needed to string like pearls on the thread of the end of my novel. It came on the heels of a wood fire and s’mores and friends sharing a meal. The children retreated upstairs to play Sesame Street and beat on toy drums. When I went up to start the bedtime routine I found that Alex, tired of Sesame Street, had put on one of Christian’s ’80s compilations. Music—no matter what style, be it classical or children’s or cheesy 80’s pop—smoothes the way in our family. The little ones let me get them undressed and toileted in short order.

“We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?…why don’t you stay? …” Christian came up the stairs singing in his most cheesy, melodramatic voice, inviting laughter. But my 33-week hormones had turned on the sniffles. Who knew it was such a romantic song? I put my arms out to him, and unexpectedly—because after all, it was bedtime, and a very cheesy song—he reciprocated.

We danced for all of twenty seconds…my swollen belly smooshed against him, a shuffle of rusty steps from a forgotten era when we took ballroom dance every week. We danced cheek to cheek, boxed in by children on two sides and a stairwell on another. The most uncomfortable dance I’ve ever danced with my husband, and perhaps the most precious by virtue of its unexpectedness, its spontaneity.

Julianna, stark naked and giggling, ran forward to demand her turn in Daddy’s arms. He swayed and stepped her back and forth in front of the bathroom, laughing because the front window blinds stood open, and with the lights on, anyone passing by could see our daughter dancing in all her birthday suit glory. Nicholas, not to be outdone, came running—naked too—yelling “my turn! My turn!” But he settled for Mommy.

The four of us danced to the strains of Bob Seger, two little naked bodies waiting for diapers and jammies, and two parents who can’t decide if they love each other or their children more.

It takes longer for you to read about it than it did to live it, this one perfect moment. When it was over, we finished brushing teeth and putting on clothes and reading books. And when we all converged on Mommy and Daddy’s bed for bedtime prayers, I thought about how different this same scene might look a few months from now, minus a few pounds, plus another child. My heart welled over with gratitude: for spontaneity, for my children and my husband, for the gifts waiting to be unwrapped in the most unexpected moments; for the sweetness of sibling love and the sweetness of parent-child love and the awesome power of a family that can’t love each other hard enough. In between head bumps and hurt feelings and toys wrested away, tempers lost and harsh words instantly regretted, and who wants hugs and who doesn’t…amid all that, there’s so much love. How did we get so lucky? When so many crave the tiniest sliver of affection…how is fair that our house can’t contain all of ours?

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