Veeder: 'Darling, we haven't gone dancing'
"Lately, my daughters have become increasingly interested in marriage and coupling up," columnist Jessie Veeder writes
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — Last weekend, the girls decided that my husband and I needed a makeover. This happens occasionally. They take it upon themselves to fix our hair, put makeup on me, paint my nails, and dig in our closet to pick out our clothes.
I always like to see the outfits they come up with. Usually it’s a combination of whatever animal print I have within arm’s reach, a flowy skirt that twirls, a jacket, and some high heels. Nothing ever matches. Their dad doesn’t have many fancy options to choose from because once I thought it was a good idea to throw all of his neckties in the washing machine and, as you can imagine, none of them survived, so I always come out as the most overdressed of the two of us.
Anyway, once they get us all dolled up, the next step is, naturally, to clear out a spot in the living room so we can dance while they watch. They give us orders on how we should hold one another and how he should dip me, and this all lasts about three minutes before they run to their rooms and pull out their most frilly dresses and sparkly shoes so they can join the show.
So, once again, this was our Sunday morning routine, the same as it has gone multiple times before. We two-stepped across the crooked rug in my snakeskin booties and twirly skirt with my arm around the guy I’ve been dancing with since seventh-grade jitterbug lessons in gym class.
As we worked the rust off our best spider move, my oldest daughter came rushing up between us, hugging our legs, a smile from ear to ear, overcome with emotion. She was having the most wholesome, adorable, whole-hearted reaction to this moment she helped curate, and it caught me off guard in the most lovely way. To see her parents dancing, holding on to one another, laughing at our clumsy attempt at a dip, letting go a bit in the routine of dishes and schedules and work made her whole little being light up.
There’s an old Ian Tyson song that my dad sings with the band called “Own Hearts Delight.” The lyrics are full of nostalgia the way some of the best songs are.
The chorus goes: “Darling, we haven’t gone dancing, for such a long time now. It’s been so long since we’ve twirled around the dance floor, I’ve almost forgotten how. So gas up the pickup and I’ll get the babies, they can stay with the neighbors tonight. And if the band at the bar’s playing waltzes and shuffles, I’m gonna dance ‘til my own heart’s delight.”
Long before I was married, I used to listen to him sing this song. Even as a kid, I understood the ache that sat within its lines.
I was raised by two people who worked two or three jobs each while raising kids and cattle. My dad was always the singer in the band, so I rarely caught them dancing, and never in the living room. But those quiet evenings at home in the winter while I sat on the floor doing my 4-H latch-hooking project, or at the kitchen table working on a math problem, I would see my mom swing her legs over my dad’s lap as they sat on the couch together, him reading the paper or a book and her surfing the channels, and I would feel safe.
Before our daughters were born, my husband and I used to spend our evenings both tucked together under a blanket in our oversized chair. Then my belly started to grow bigger, and then there were three of us, and then there were four of us, and our arms became busy, our nights occupied by crying babies, then kids with the sniffles and teeth brushing and "Just one more book before bed, please." I’ve only just recently remembered that ritual of ours. We’ve long gotten rid of that big old armchair.
Lately, my daughters have become increasingly interested in marriage and coupling up. It’s a natural curiosity, I suppose, to try to understand what love is, what it might look like, what it might feel like, and if it might be something for them someday. There was a time when my oldest was around 2 or 3 when she thought dancing meant marriage. Marriage was dancing together. I didn’t hurry to correct her.
“Darling, we haven’t gone dancing, for such a long time now …” The words couldn’t echo more true for us these days. I guess we have our daughters to thank for the reminder.
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Greetings from the ranch in western North Dakota and thank you so much for reading. If you're interested in more stories and reflections on rural living, its characters, heartbreaks, triumphs, absurdity and what it means to live, love and parent in the middle of nowhere, check out more of my Coming Home columns below. As always, I love to hear from you! Get in touch at email@example.com.