Prom Night

Missy hopped in place, a brilliant smile flashing.

She twisted to the left. To the right. Then took my hand and began to swing it to the sky and back again.

After all, if you can’t cut loose at the prom, when can you?

For Missy, this might as well have been heaven on Earth. More specifically, it was a huge dance for disabled adults at a church in Lafayette.  A chance to dress up, eat up, meet up, and dance the night away to a pounding beat played Missy-style – in other words, loud enough to bring down the snowpack on Longs Peak.

Me? I was the accidental date. Exactly one caregiver could come along,  and that was going to be my wife Heather. But when Heather took ill, it was time to dive into the jacket and tie for my first non-wedding dance since …

Since …

Good grief. Junior high school?

If I’m exaggerating, it’s not by much. From seventh to 12th grade, I attended exactly one school dance. I skipped my prom. Even at later functions, like my old church’s “Ground Zero,” I typically hovered around the air hockey table instead of the dance floor.

The reasons were simple:

1) I possessed the agility, grace and dancing skill of an epileptic manatee.

2) I rarely, if ever, had anyone to go dancing with.

3) I somehow knew, with a certainty that bordered on religious faith, that the minute I started my paltry excuse for dance moves, every eye in the room would be on me. Sort of the way you watch a traffic accident, but with more wincing.

Hines Ward, I was not. I’m not even sure I was Montgomery Ward.

But joining Missy that night, I realized how little it really mattered.

Missy picked up the dancing bug from her parents, especially her mom (who used to cut a mean Jitterbug).  And despite everything, she has a dancer’s heart. Physical limitations? Pshah. This is music we’re talking about here!

Shy? Sometimes. But rarely for long. And once she’s out there, it doesn’t matter who sees. It’s not about technique, it’s about joy. About enthusiasm. About fun.

There’s a lot worse ways to approach a dance floor. Or anything else.

That night, we danced on: Missy, me and a couple of volunteers there to guide us around and make us welcome. There was no adolescent awkwardness, no one judging, just more fun than any of us could have imagined.

I’ve rarely seen Missy quite so tired as she was on the drive home. Or quite so ecstatic. She still keeps her water bottle door prize close at hand, a small memory of an unforgettable night.

Me? I’ve got my own memories. And a picture or two. And just maybe a little more confidence than before.

After so long, it’s nice to finally get in step.

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