My DSD Sarah and her sweet daughter (my DSGD, Grace) flew in from Minnesota last weekend to attend a loved one’s baby shower and to surprise the celebrated mom-to-be with their unexpected presence. It was, of course, a delightful surprise.
The added bonus was that I got to spend time with my girl and her girl for a few hours here and there between their social engagements and flight schedule.
Since four-year-old Grace was visiting, I refreshed the toy cupboard — a below-the-counter kitchen cabinet we reserve for age-appropriate toys, books, and treasures for the grand-kiddos to enjoy when they visit. They know where their cabinet is, and they enjoy rediscovering it everytime they come. 😀
One of my recent additions to the kiddo cupboard is a children’s book called Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees.
It’s a delightful story, whimsically illlustrated, containing wisdom for children and grown-ups alike.
The gist of the story is this: Gerald the Giraffe, while good at reaching high places and devouring tree leaves, isn’t good at dancing, especially compared to other animals. He wants to dance though, and decides to try dancing in public at the animals’ annual Jungle Dance where all the jungle animals display their own dance moves. Before he takes a step, however, the other animals make fun of Gerald, belittling him so much that he freezes on the dance floor.
Defeated, Gerald leaves the Jungle Dance feeling sad and alone. That is, until he stops to notice the beauty of the moon. Then a cricket chirps encouragement in Gerald’s ear: “…Sometimes when you’re different, you just need a different song….”
Through various natural inspirations aside from the moon, Gerald begins to feel the music, his music, and he finds his body making one tentative move after another until he’s dancing freely, wonderfully, spectacularly, ultimately silencing his critics as they look on in wonder and awe. When the bewildered animals, who’d previously ridiculed him, ask how he learned to dance so well, he answers (and this is how the book ends):
“We all can dance…when we find music that we love.”
Sarah and Grace’s visit turned out to be, for me, more than just a fun-to-see-them visit. Reading with Gracie meant I was once again captive to Gerald’s message in Giraffes Can’t Dance: “We all can dance…when we find music that we love.”
I love children’s books. They can teach us so much. And they remind us adults of things we occasionally forget with age. Gerald reminded me again, as he has whenever I read Giraffes Can’t Dance to the tiny humans, that my heart can dance if I remember its song.
Sometimes I forget. I forgot for several years, in fact.
Much of the music to which my heart danced in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, grew silent in my early 50s. Call it mid-life disillusionment. Call it facing reality. Call it a crisis of faith or a changing world view. Whatever it was, I couldn’t hear my heart’s song as I once had, and my heart no longer danced as it once did.
I even stopped believing my heart could dance. Like Gerald, I felt awkward, foolish, even useless as I entered my fifties (apparently that’s a common mid-life thing, though I didn’t know it at the time). And if my heart couldn’t dance, why bother to try?
But with the arrival of my grandchildren nearly seven years ago, one at a time over the next four-and-a-half years, I started to hear life’s music again. I heard a new, richer, deeper song, and soon that song worked its way into my heart, allowing it to dance once more.
I just had to find the right song, the song I loved.
It would be easy to say that this new song, the song that fuels my dancing soul, is my grandchildren themselves. But that wouldn’t be fair (I would never put that pressure or repsonsibility on them), nor would it be accurate. Though my grand-babies did indeed fan the spark in my heart, and their births did indeed birth in me an infectious, uncontainable joy, those precious kiddos are not themselves the song that makes my heart dance.
If not my grandchildren, what is it then that allows my heart to boogie and twirl and swing with abandon even now as I approach my golden years?
One short, simple, indefatigable word: Hope.
My grandbabies’ entrances into this world reminded me of the wonder and optimism new life brings. They reminded me (and remind me still) what it is to believe and trust and to greet each day with wide-eyed enthusiasm. They affirmed (and affirm) that goodness and beauty and love still exist as surely as the air I breathe exists (even if I can’t see it sometimes). And they reminded me of the wonderful, infinite, miraculous grace of God.
That’s a song my heart can dance to for the remainder of my days, no matter how crazy my life and this world become.
And you know what? Because my heart was able to learn to dance again, I started to wonder if maybe my feet could learn to dance, too.
So last September at my niece’s wedding, (after having had some book-reading time with the grands in weeks prior during our family vacation where I encountered Gerald’s message once again), I talked my DBB1, a terrific dancer btw, into teaching me how to two-step. To understand how monumental this was for me, you’ve got to realize that the only place I dance is in my kitchen, and then only when no one else is home.
But the refreshed song in my soul to which my heart was dancing gave me the freedom to give real dancing a try. Here I am, giving it a shot:
Was I graceful and swift-of-foot? Ha! I’m a short, round, gray-haired Welsh woman approaching my sixties. What do you think?! But DBB1 and I sure had fun, we made some memories, I didn’t trip anyone, and for the first time that I can recall I wasn’t embarassed to try.
It’s amazing what the right song can do for our hearts and our feet.
Thank you, dear grandbabies for helping me find my heart’s song once again, and thank you Gerald the Giraffe, for encouraging my heart, and feet, to dance.
And now that I can two-step, who knows what’s next! Maybe it’s time for Country Line Dancing. In the meantime my heart waltzes to hope’s music. And my feet two-step in the kitchen where no one can see.
Until next time,