And I Hope You Dance

In 1984 I was visiting San Diego on a trip home from where we were living in Texas. I had had a rough 1983-84 as a California transplant to a small town in Texas.

The visit in San Diego was to see old friends for a few days before traveling further north to my hometown.

I can’t even remember the friends’ names we visited now, but I remember three things very distinctly:

1) The Olympics were in LA and events were happening everywhere. We went to see the French fencing team practice and I was immediately sold on fencing as the best sport ever which had nothing to do with the actual sport and everything to do with the incredibly handsome athletes bandying about with swords. Even as I write this, I have to take a deep breath just from the memory of those white-suited swordsmen. (whew)

2)  I remember the girl of the family, who was my age, had a black boyfriend and was terrified her mother would find out. She had his picture shoved under her bed, up in the rafters of the box spring. She had all the notes and mementos he had given her there too.  My mother had raised me very open about race. My sister was mixed race for goodness sake. And yet, when I told her later about this girl’s boyfriend, she said she hoped I never “did that.” I was shocked and silent trying to sort this blatant contradiction of how I had been raised to think of different races out in my head. And like the breath I need to take at the memory of those handsome swordsman, I also need a moment of silence to see if my brain has any new answers for why my friend’s black boyfriend was something forbidden with the same tone she used for getting a tatoo. But honestly, I gave up years ago trying to figure out the ways of my mother.  So, I got nothin’.

3) The last thing was that my friend and I would walk to a nearby park and near a the bathrooms there was a concrete pad. It was probably a 5×8 foot space. Boys appeared with a rolled up piece of linoleum, a boom box and the most amazing dance moves I had ever seen. It was break dancing and it was beautiful, jaw dropping and a bit scary. Scary? They were bending in ways I had never seen people bend before.

I watched this dance video that has made the rounds (I’m rarely on the front of a trend) and it reminded me of those few days in San Diego.

It reminded me of the Olympics, a wonderful example of what the world is capable of. Countries coming together to compete, yes, but also to celebrate. All the Americans watching those Frenchman applauded, and I’m sure at least a few were applauding for the skill and sportsmanship of it (unlike me that was just for the male beauty). I was reminded of a girl in love despite her mother’s rules and a girl puzzled by her mother’s contradictions. And I remember those boys dancing on that scrap piece of flooring, making amazing things happen to music.

The world is filled with things we can’t celebrate. And contradictions. And heartbreak. But there are also moments where you learn something new, see something that seems impossible or even just let go of finding an answer to the unanswerable. And you are amazed. And awed. And you applaud.