When I told Isadora that we had gone to a barn dance the night she spent with Grandma and Grandpa, she replied with a puzzled, “isn’t that just for animals?” Indeed, we had read a book about a midnight barn dance, where the animals paired up and stole out of the barn to partake in some secret midnight dancing. No, I responded with a laugh, there were no animals, but it was no less magical. As we lay there snuggling together at bedtime, I described the scene for her.
The night air was that perfect combination of sharp cold and crispness that only October can perfectly conjure. The barn, a grand old structure, was illuminated with a few simple spotlights. The windows gave mention of tiny white lights dancing around the vertical beams within. The magic wafted through the drafty slats of barn wood, drawing us in with wispy tendrils of fiddles, banjo, and guitar. In we went. And we were looking sharp, dressed as we imagined appropriate for such an occasion: beaver skin hat and red square-toe boots. (unfortunately not picked up by the photographer)
It was actually our third square dance in about as many months. How great is that??? I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned the Date-Night-to-Define-All-Subsequent-Date-Nights that we shared the first night of the Sugar Maple Music Fest. I’d better bring you up to speed. That first night of the Sugar Maple, we had secured a babysitter for the kids and headed out to the fest. On the way, I mentioned seeing something about an old-time dance later that evening. Frankly, we were just happy to be going – the specifics of the entertainment were icing on the cake. At the fest, when they announced that dance lessons for the upcoming dance were being given in a smaller tent, we went, expecting to finally learn how to waltz, maybe, or some other mysterious dance. I didn’t know what kind of moves were involved in an old-time dance, but we were game for anything. It was Date Night, after all. When Dot, our ebullient instructor, lined us up by couples to form a square… the light in my head went on. I turned to Andrew, my eyes lit up, big as saucers, and exclaimed in as contained of a whisper as I could manage in my excitement, “THIS IS A SQUARE DANCE!!!” How funny that we had no idea until that very moment. And what a terrific surprise! We absolutely loved it. And we gushed on and on about it to our friends, family, ourselves for weeks after. Where could we get more of this? We were hooked.
When my friend Lily sent an invite to her Square Dance Birthday Party, you know we rearranged our schedule to accommodate it, bringing our camping friends along with us before setting off the next day on the lively camping trip mentioned here. And that very night, I spied on her fridge the poster for the Barn Dance that became our third dance of the year. So far. There’s lots of dancing time left.
This is a shot I snapped on the very last teeny-tiny bit of battery power, right before my camera called it a night. A collection fit for a living history museum exhibit, these are the Caller’s own collection of dances, a whole index card file of allemandes and promenades and do-se-dos. The incalculable value of this repository struck a nerve with me. They’re not unlike Great-Grandma’s recipe cards, a meager bunch of ingredients jotted down on an index card, their dishes coming to life only with the knowing hand of the card’s author, or through someone well versed in Great-Grandma’s method. These particular cards and dances are almost meaningless to anyone but their author, yet in his knowing hands are worth their weight in gold.
I might add that I haven’t always been so enthusiastic about square dancing. If you were to time-travel and find my 7th-grade-self amidst the dreaded square dance unit of gym class and hand her a printed copy of this blog entry, she’d no doubt look at you through her hair-spray-encrusted, intricately lofted bangs and smirk, “Yeah, right.” It’s hard for a girl wearing MC Hammer pants and black patent leather shoes to don the glasses of the future and foresee it holding anything musical but more Milli Vanilli or Vanilla Ice. I have to think that Mrs. K, who patiently taught us the steps of square dancing way back when, even though it must have seemed a lost cause for our ” too cool” selves, would have a bit more faith in my generation if she could see how her diligence has come back to serve me well.