Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dancing in the Dark

Our little girl just turned two years old.  For the longest time the hierarchy was Baby (Supreme Ruler of the Universe), Mum (Center of Said Universe) and Dad (That Guy Who Hangs Around a Lot).  This applied to all facets of our life as a family.  If Mum was available then Dad really had to work to get any facetime with The Ruler.  It's been getting much better of late, occasionally Em will even remember her Noblise Oblige and grant me the briefest of unsolicited cuddles.  A boon for which I will cheerfully commit any number of diplomatic faux pas, up to and including "accidently" backing a ute into the leader of a G8 country.  Seriously, you'd better hope Em doesn't take a dislike to you.  I'm wrapped so far around her little finger that if she were to point at you as say "Daddy, kill." you'd be meat so fast your head would spin, literally.  You can't imagine how much cleaning up that entails, so for sake of my soft pink hands, please be nice to my daughter.

Of course this attachment to Mummy isn't always a great thing and we're actively trying to get her to chill about being without the maternal security blanket.  Bed time has been especially difficult.  For the longest time Em would not go to sleep unless Mummy was there in the room with her.  Months ago we started putting her to bed together.  The idea being that she should get used to me being there at bed time to the point where I'll be able to put her down solo.  A few days ago I managed it, not without some fussing and carrying on mind you.  But she did go to sleep with just me present.  Progress.

The next night we both ended up staying.  We were late getting her to bed and she was fussy and insistent that Mummy be there.  Claire perched on the end of the bed and I stood in the center of the dark room.  Claire made her escape early and successfully but I stayed for a few minutes, just in case.

I stood still in the dark for several minutes, silent and a little uncomfortable.  I found myself swaying gently, it seemed to help make the standing easier.  So I closed my eyes and played a song in my head, dancing more in thought than in fact.  As I did so I remembered times on the dancefloor those 20 or so years ago.

I remembered the time I twisted my ankle so badly during Love and Rockets' "Ying and Yang and the Flowerpot Man" that I couldn't stand on it.  One of the staff asked, well, yelled over the music actually, if I needed ice.  I said "Oh God, yes!"  Off they went and a bad French farce ensued. One with repeated misunderstandings over just what had been asked for, ice or an ambulance?

I remembered the time at a Jerry, Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra gig where someone came down on my foot just as I was going up.  Spiral fracture out of that one.  I did get two shots of Tequila for the price of one though.  I'd hobbled to the bar and asked the bartender what he had for pain, then laced my boot up tight and dived back in.  One of the best gigs I've ever been to and I was right not to miss a second of it.

Funny how most of those memories involve getting hurt.  I am not by even stretchiest of imaginations what anyone would call a graceful person.  I've scars on all of my extremities to stand in witness to this fact.  I do however dance reasonably well.  Or I do when I'm given my head and room to move.  I suck at anything that requires knowledge and coordination with anyone else.  My method was to shut my eyes, always circle counter clockwise and always have at least one part of my body moving with the beat.  Well, to be really honest I did dance reasonably well back when I danced at all.

There in Em's room I also remembered the time that the almost supernaturally beautiful East Indian girl told me: "You dance pretty good for a white guy."  I was taken aback, first that she'd even spoken to me and second that what she'd said was something resembling a compliment.  Of course at that time my self esteem was measured in parts per million.  I muttered "Thanks", shut my eyes and sank back into the beat.  At the next break between songs she leaned over and said: "You look like Jesus."  Now that?...that really rattled me.  Okay, I did look like Jesus at the time, or at least the Western world's myth of Jesus as a long haired, bearded white guy.  Although I'm pretty sure there isn't too many official portraits of Jesus wearing combat boots and torn black jeans.

I had no idea what to make of this comment.*  Was she coming on to me?  It didn't seem likely.  I mean Jesus isn't exactly know for his sex appeal.  Nor for his suitability as a life partner come to that.  I danced out the next song and slipped away before another could start.  I suspect that I ended up convincing myself that the whole thing was some sort of veiled insult. But I'm not sure, the rest of the evening is blurry from deliberately applied self medication of the malted sort.  Hmm, perhaps my self esteem at that time was measured in parts per billion.

So there I was, two decades and half a world away from that silly young man, standing in the dark, swaying in place, remembering, wondering:  what had changed, am I the same person?

Once upon a time I danced in a crowded room with my eyes closed because I hadn't yet learned that I was worthy of love.  Today I sway in the dark for an audience of one: a bundle of strong-willed toddler proof of how so very wrong I was for such a very long time.  One who's image stands next to every definition I have for love.  One whose eyes had better be closed.

"Lie down sweetie, it's okay, Daddy's here.  Thatsa girl, now close your eyes my love, it's time to sleep..."

*That Jesus comment still puzzles me.  I wish I could go back and ask her what she meant.  Any ideas?  

Friday, July 10, 2009

Who We Are

It all seemed so important and then, much later, it all seemed so trivial. We stopped judging people by such a narrow criteria. We met people that liked Emerson, Lake and Palmer, or The Eagles, or god forbid, Vanilla Ice and we didn't despise them, some even became friends.

But it was important, it was vital, just not in the way that we thought it was. We learned something, many things.

We learned that we weren't alone. For the first time, we chose to be a part of something that was wholly our own. We paid the price of membership, the clothes, the hair, the attitude, the uniform. We learned the strength of numbers, but also that a uniform exterior doesn't mean a uniform interior. We learned that it's possible to choose the symbols of our allegiance and through that we learned to be independent again.

We learned limits. Some of us chose to go down, the whole way down as we watched in awe and horror. Some made it back stronger, some made it back damaged and some didn't make it back at all. It was hard learning that we can't save everybody no matter how much we have in common.

We learned the most important lesson of all. Is it any wonder that the first great love of our life came with a soundtrack? We threw our passions at the sounds coming from a needle scratching plastic and at the figures who made those sounds, both right in front of us in the smokey air and impossibly, electronically far away. On the dance floor we rehearsed setting free the exaltation and energy bottled up inside. Sometimes we ended up bloody and bruised, but that too was practice. We let it all out and to our wonder we saw it reflected back at us from the sweating mass. We learned that if all those people could feel the same way about the music, then that cherished, longed-for individual sitting right there, so near, could be feeling those same longings for us. And just perhaps, it might be safe to set those feelings free. We learned how to love.

So yes, it was important, not the details but the experience and all it taught us. Nurture those memories, follow Memory Lane all the way to Nostagia, those experiences made us who we are.

*I must confess: I wrote this back in February as a Note on Facebook.  By coincidence it was the same day Lux Interior from the Cramps died.  Not sure why I never posted it here, but I'm feeling all nostalgicy again so here it is.