Dancin’ Queen

By Beth Pugh

Dancin’ Queen

“What’s wrong, Papaw?”

I stepped through the door of my grandparents’ sitting room. My two year old son stopped in the living room, eying the toys in his cousin’s play pen. Rattles and plastic phones, tiny stuffed animals from a mobile and a bouncy seat that used to be his. They were much too young for him, but to a toddler, a toy is a toy, and he had found a treasure trove of them. I left him under the watchful eyes of dotting aunts and continued through the house.

The sitting room was dark, only a desk lamp was on. I interrupted the theme song of Andy Griffith to ask the question. Papaw sat in his nearly worn out recliner directly in front of it, the way he has every day for the last fifty years, his gray hair shinning wherever the dim touched.

“What? Oh, nothing,” he answered quickly, almost as if my question had woke him from a dream or brought him back from a memory he’d been reliving. The look on his face did not match his reply. His mouth was slightly agape, and his eyes were wide. He wore the expression of someone half frightened, half surprised and entirely confused.

The original expression of shock melted away, but I could tell he was still not at ease. He looked in my direction, but not at me with his eyes. Instead, he looked past me, then quickly in the other direction, with his head down. He seemed ashamed of where his thoughts had been.

“Something’s wrong. You were looking at me funny.”

“No, nothing’s wrong,” he said, and let out a little laugh before adding, “You looked just like Deb walking through the door.”

I wasn’t expecting that answer, but when it came I understood his reluctance to answer my question.

“Nope, it’s just me, Papaw.”

Debbie was my papaw’s daughter. She was also my mother. We lost her eleven years ago to chronic kidney disease, and between the two of us it’s still hard to talk about her. We never know what will hurt the other, and so it’s something we rarely do.

He’s not the first to tell me this, though. People tell me how much I look like her almost as often as they see me. When I run into her old friends in the grocery store, it’s one of the first things they say. They hug me or touch my arm slightly and smile as they do. Honestly, I don’t think I look that much like her. But they mean well, so I smile back and thank them. I take it as the highest compliment they can give.

Some girls would hate to be like their mothers. I’m just the opposite. If I can be half the mom my mother was, I’ll consider my children blessed. She was sweet and kind. She forgave easily and loved like she’d never been hurt. Her smile lit up the whole house, not just a room. More importantly, she knew how to have fun. She was never like the other adults, calm and collected. She didn’t have it in her to be. She was too excitable. The littlest things amused her and brought her joy. Childlike doesn’t even begin to describe her.

The fondest memory I have of her is watching her dance. Most of my childhood memories have faded, but this one remains vivid. We were in the kitchen after school. She was giggling like a mad woman, and then she starts dancing. Well, trying to dance. Her feet are big, so her movements are awkward, not smooth at all. She basically lunges forward as far as she can, bunny hops forward from there and claps her hands three times in a row. Then, she laughs the most contagious laugh I’ve ever heard, and I can’t help but laugh, too. The dance remains fresh in my mind, like it just happened yesterday.

My two year old runs past me through the doorway of the sitting room. He pulls at my hand and says in his whiney, sleepy voice, “Go home.”

“But we just got here. Are you sure you want to go home,” I plead with him.

“Go home,” he says again as he starts to the front door.

I say my goodbyes and follow him. When we get to our living room, I turn on the television. He asks for “doot-doot.” I turn on Youtube, which is what he’s really asking for, and the music starts playing.

“Bubby, wanna’ dance?”

He smiles and reaches for me. I pick him up in my arms. We jump around, right and left. I twirl us around and around, careful not to let my feet get in the way. I dip him, and he grins from ear to ear. He thinks I’m crazy and starts laughing as I raise him back up. Our laughter fills the house as the song continues to play.

“That’s all for now, Bub,” I say, letting myself collapse on the couch.

Maybe, just maybe, Papaw’s right.

About this writer

  • Beth PughBeth Pugh is a wife, mother and daughter striving to live a life of contentment, like baby bear soup. She hopes her stories help others to do the same.

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3 Responses to “Dancin’ Queen”

  1. Beth,
    Your heartwarming story made me smile remembering how I danced my babies, grandbabies and now my great grandbaby around. Treasure those memories.

  2. Rose Ann says:

    I’m sure there’s lots of dancing to come–enjoy each moment. Lovely story, beautifully told.

  3. Rose Tackett says:

    Beth .. I am so honored that you shared this with me … Yes I loved your mother very much and I also love you dearly . I think about her often . You do look like your mother .. But to me I see that 15 year old I met that day and I am so very proud of you and all you have done . God has truly blessed you with a beautiful son . and congrats to Ryan .. Even though our life’s has grown in different directions I’m always there for you .ly

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