The Universal Notebook: Dance with me

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Some evenings, when I take a break from a ballgame on TV to see what Carolyn is up to, I find my lovely wife out back in the sunroom working on the computer and listening to music. I’ve never figured out how daughter Tess’s iTunes work or how to find music on YouTube, but Carolyn seems to produce personal mini-concerts for herself several nights a week.

“Oh, good,” she says when I stick my head around the corner. “Did you come to dance with me?”

“Gee, honey, the game’s tied going into overtime, but …”

“Just one dance!”

“Aw, sweetie, I’m not really … you know … in the mood …”

By which time Carolyn has clicked on some favorite tune, turned up the volume, and taken my hand.

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly.

For 30 years, Carolyn has been threatening to sign us up for dance lessons, but in the meantime we have both become comfortable with the limited repertoire of dance moves we do have, which come down to a few jitterbug twirls, a behind the back pass, a waltz step or two, and a lot of free style, non-contact shucking and jiving with occasional resemblances to the Twist, the Fish, the Swim, the Pony, the Mashed Potato and the Hustle. (Look it up, kiddies.)

So there we are out in the sunroom, grandparents, kids grown, dog embarrassed, Uncle Kracker crooning “Follow Me,” dancing in the glow of the computer screen.

Reluctantly, stiffly at first, I indulge my pretty wife, not sure I can find the rhythm or the beat, my balance or my feet. But if I surrender to the music the way Carolyn does, pretty soon we’re both into it, young and hip again for a moment, two against the world.

Follow me, everything is alright

I’ll be the one to tuck you in at night

And if you want to leave I can guarantee

You won’t find nobody else like me

When I was young I spent an inordinate number of hours listening to music, rock and folk mostly. Dylan, Chuck Berry, Joan Baez, the Beatles, the Stones, Tom Rush, Dave Van Ronk, Geoff and Maria Muldaur, Dick and Mimi Farina, all spoke directly to me. They told me that life wasn’t about paying bills and balancing your checkbook. Life was about falling in love, making a life with someone, making a difference, championing the underdog, making this mysterious existence a little less lonely and frightening.

Dancing with Carolyn the other night I suddenly realized what it was that I despise so about the reactionary wave that has swept over this country in recent year, bearing all in its path ever backwards into the uptight, polluted past. It is anti-life. There is no poetry, no music, no art, no dancing, just a disheartening, soul-deadening, Scrooge-like death march to earmark elimination and deficit reduction. The squares have taken over!

So while we wait for the return of the generous spirit of America, for the light to overcome the darkness, for a freedom that is not just a matter of defense spending but of enlightenment, for an embrace of life in its manifold fullness as opposed to its miserable particulars, we must work, pray, educate and demonstrate, certainly, but it also wouldn’t hurt to do a little dance with someone you love.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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