Waltzing across kitchen floor in mom’s arms

Sharon Kennedy

When I was a youngster, Mom taught me how to waltz. The kitchen radio was always tuned to the only station we could get during the daytime, WSOO. I remember trying to dance to the music of Hank Williams, Faron Young, Kitty Wells, Red Foley, Hank Snow, and dozens of other country singers. One summer day Mom decided it was time I learned the proper way to waltz. She shook the flour from her hands, put a blueberry pie in the oven, and took off her apron. Then she took my hand.

She started with a basic step much like a square. Once I learned the simple concept of moving my feet in the right direction without looking down at them, we advanced to more sophisticated steps. When she was fairly certain I wouldn’t trip over my own feet or get mine tangled up with hers, she suggested I take off my shoes. She said nobody could glide across the dance floor in a pair of clodhoppers.

We started again and that’s when I realized she was teaching me something I would love for the rest of my life. I have no idea whose voice I was hearing when I slid across the kitchen floor wearing my white anklets. I only knew I never wanted to stop dancing. The heat from the wood stove didn’t bother me. I ignored the jeers of my siblings. Nothing could hinder my determination to learn to waltz.

It wasn’t just a slow dance Mom was teaching me. We weren’t just swaying to some background music like a lot of people do today. I don’t call that dancing. I have no idea how or when Mom learned to waltz, but she was an expert. Many times during that summer she would waltz me around the kitchen when she heard a favorite song. Lots of them were sad ones like “Honky Tonk Angel,” “She’s No Angel,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and many others, but there was no sign of sadness in her eyes when she taught me more intricate steps. As the summer progressed, we danced more often. Even when Mom wasn’t in the house, I would dance with myself, gliding across that old linoleum floor as if it were a grand dance hall.

As a teenager, occasionally I would take her hand and ask her to dance with me. By the mid 1960s, much of the country music we had loved was replaced by a new generation of singers. If a DJ played a country song from the previous decade, we moved in rhythm to the music and all the lovely memories came rushing back. It’s been over 50 years since I danced with my mother. When she was in a nursing home, we didn’t dance but we often sang the songs from days of old when visiting musicians came to entertain the residents.

The other evening “I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me” popped into my head. It’s also called “The Prisoner’s Song” and it’s one we often danced to. I listened to it on YouTube and it brought back memories of the days of my youth. I remember singing it when I rode my bicycle down the road in the evening and watched the sun disappear from the day. I loved that song as well as Ferlin Husky’s “On the Wings of a Dove.” In the old days, we weren’t distracted by a variety of electronics. We had the radio and our imagination and that was enough.

My one playmate on our isolated sideroad moved away with her family when I was 10 years old. When she was gone, I spent most of my time alone. Many of the songs I learned helped keep loneliness at bay. At that tender age, I didn’t even know I was lonely. I only knew there was no one to play with. My sister was four years my senior and had her own interests. When I outgrew my dolls, I turned to music for comfort and encouragement. I do the same today.

Although I often rail against technology, one of the nicest things about it is with the touch of a key we can listen to the music of a bygone era and be transported back in time. I can sing along to the songs that made my childhood more pleasant and my mother more dear.

If your mother is still with you, treasure her. A piece of your heart will go with her when she’s gone. On Mother’s Day hold her close and dance with her. Even if she’s in a wheelchair, hold her hands and sing an old familiar tune. You may not know it and she might not show it, but her spirit will remember the days when you both were young. That memory will make her happier than all the nicely wrapped presents, the lovely roses, and your 15 minute visit.

Throughout the years, we often fail to tell our mother how much we love her. If possible, don’t miss your chance to celebrate her life on Sunday. Make her feel loved and cherished. This might be your last chance.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and to women like my aunts, Marie and Kate, who were not blessed with children of their own. May your day be as special as you are.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at sharonkennedy1947@gmail.com. In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.