We used to call her the ‘Dance for me’ baby. At two weeks young, she’d look at you with blank eyes and blink, expressionless. Brow furrowed. Eyes glaring. She, the statue. We, the minions. She willed us to entertain her. She lorded over us daily with that steely face and when friends would come to meet her, they’d say, Oh gracious. She’s one of those babies.
She wanted you to dance for her, that’s all. She wanted you to hang the moon again and again and again, to bounce her and busy her and more, and higher, and faster.
Her first word? Roomba. (I know. Terrible first word.)
Her second? Dada.
But if you ask her, if you ask anyone that knows her, anyone who witnessed the summer she learned to talk, they’ll remember a baby swinging high, saying four words and four words only, a repeated soundtrack in June and July and August and beyond:
Uppa the sky! ‘gain! ‘gain!
Up to the sky.
Again and again.
Last weekend, I caught her dancing with Ken for a minute. He swung her around, faster, higher, uppa the sky. They spun and twisted, they flew and dipped. And then it was over. She was off to play with her friends and he was off to throw a football around.
She isn’t the ‘Dance for me’ baby anymore. She hasn’t been for a long time.
She’s the ‘Dance with me’ kid.
I think sometimes we demand things from others because we don’t know how to experience them ourselves. I think we demand perfection because we’ll never have it. We demand love because we don’t understand it. We grip our hands and clench our fists and furrow our brows and steel our faces, willing happiness because we know it’ll be gone in a second, or a minute – the time it takes to dance with your father and run to the fields.
We say, Dance for me. Up to the sky. Again and again.
But what we mean, I think, is Dance with me. Show me how it feels. Teach me what it looks like. Tell me how to do it, that it’s worth it, that it means something.
That I mean something.
It does mean something, the dance.
(So do you.)
She knows this now.
(So do we.)