Dancing with Giants
By Amy Mullis
I was too young to be astounded by the fact that Dad was taking me to the dance. If any of his submarine buddies from WWII or the guys from the maintenance shop at the mill, where he was the go-to guy for problems nobody else could solve, had known about it they would also know better than to tease him. It would be impossible for them to believe that this man, who was more comfortable with a wrench in his hand and grease under his fingernails than a dance floor under his feet, was my escort for the night. I wished it would last forever.
Kicking up gravel and dust as I skipped across the parking lot, trying to keep pace with Daddy-sized steps, I watched our shadows grow long in the sunset and felt sophisticated and worldly. I must have looked about the size of a thumbprint next to him, clutching the folded top of the brown paper bag that held our sandwiches and sodas for supper. I reached up to hold his hand as we crunched along toward the armory. Across the parking lot there were other teams of two strolling toward the big building, each one mismatched when it came to height, like a full blown oak tree overshadowing a seedling. I was a Brownie Scout, and tonight was the night for the father-daughter dance.
My dad is not the kind of man who sows words like grass seed, covering the entire yard and waiting for sprouts. He is the kind of man who can fix a china cup with a tender touch and superglue the broken bat a sandlot grandson holds up with tears in his eyes. He doesn’t need the sound on when he watches the ball game, and he doesn’t check the instructions before he assembles the bicycle for Santa to bring. He’s not the kind of guy who discusses his plans for the future or even his plans for the next hour, but a private fellow whose idea of a grand social occasion is taking the family to the local Chinese restaurant for somebody’s birthday.
Looking back, I know he must have wanted to be anywhere else that night; fixing a machine that wouldn’t give in or traveling back to his days in construction where, as an electrician, he was often miles from home bringing power to a bank that would eventually house millions of dollars. But he was there with me, smiling across the sunset as the lights from the big building spilled into the street.
Across the gravel, my friend, Karen from across the street drove up with her dad. He opened the door for her with a flourish, just like mine had done. The evening sky glowed softly above us, and I was sure the world stopped while we headed inside with our best guys. We were princesses with beanie caps for tiaras.
The space inside the National Guard Armory looked huge. Ivy-covered on the outside, it was filled with more little girl excitement than a balloon holds helium. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the big-boned building float away on wispy tendrils of childhood dreams. The evening was warm, but the great hall was warmer, full of animated chatter. We found a place for our little picnic among other bags holding peanut butter sandwiches and cold drinks, and joined a circle of giggling girls, each one flanked by a date wearing a boyish grin and a plaid shirt, hands plunged into the pockets of pants not usually worn during the week. The air smelled of magnolias and punch and shoe polish.
A man with a microphone stood up at the end of the room and invited us to join the fun. We followed the announcer’s instructions and formed two large circles with fathers on the inside and daughters on the outside. For a suspended moment we stood, smiling in anticipation as we waited for the music to start. Then we began to dance. Fairy princesses paired with giants, fluttering in a warmly lit gymnasium.
“Heel and toe, heel and toe, slide, slide, slide, slide.” At every “slide,” the fathers would skip a beat to the right and dance with the daughter that his steps brought him to. My dad skipping is one of the wonders the world will never see again. The fact that he danced with more girls than even me is amazing.
If we only knew to ask the right questions, the wisdom in the room could have saved us from endless heartaches and headaches, empty dreams and emptier wallets later on. But for the moment, the air was perfumed with laughter, and the world was made of peanut butter sandwiches, cold drinks and the men who would forever be our champions.
For that night, there were no cares, and worries still hid far down the road behind the trees. So in the gathering place of heroes, we captured an evening, laughing with friends and dancing with giants.
About this writer
- Amy Mullis writes for the websites “Stage of Life,” “An Army of Ermas,” and her blog, “Mind Over Mullis.” She hasn’t danced in a long time, but thinks now would be a good time to start.