The Family Dance

It was Saturday, and that meant pizza and homemade ice cream night at the Lavender-Mulkey home. It had already been a big day for Gracelyn—a playdate that morning with her new Evergreen friend Eleanor at our place, then an outing to the French Broad River with her friend Julian, his sister Ellie, his mom Katie and a few others. Gracelyn had had a great time, but she came home tired and it showed in her irritability and terseness when she spoke to us.

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Gracelyn, Shonnie and me

As a light breeze blew from the west, we set up dinner on the wrought iron table on the front porch and all sat down to enjoy pizza and salad. Then we began our evening gratitude ritual. On this night Gracelyn wasn’t really up for it and refused to join in. She nibbled her pizza circumspectly while Shonnie expressed her gratitude: “I’m grateful that my parent coaching program is going so well. Almost one-hundred participants signed up so far!” “Well, I’m grateful for this yummy meal and this pint of Wicked Weed ale,” I said. Before long Gracelyn abruptly left the table without a word while Shonnie and I continued eating and chatting, including a few words about Gracelyn’s weariness and the need for an early bedtime.

As the almond butter ice cream churned in the electric ice cream maker, we listened to a replay of Prairie Home Companion from October 2, 2004, and started to clean up after our meal. From the radio, Geoff Muldaur, Garrison Keillor and the All-Star Shoe Band began to perform a compelling version of Maria Muldaur’s “Stand By Me.”

stand by me
stand by me
take me in your arms and hold me, tenderly.
in the still of the night,
you can be my candlelight,
you comfort me,
and warm this lonely heart of mine,
oh, stand by me.

Stepping out of her fatigue and her funk, Gracelyn enthusiastically called for a family dance. During these family dances, Shonnie and I stand face-to-face with arms linked and Gracelyn lies in our arms facing upward. As usual, Gracelyn began our ritual by looking up into Shonnie’s eyes and softly saying, “I love you, mama. Do you love me?” On this evening, deeply touched, Shonnie began weeping, and managed through her tears, “I love you, my darling girl.” “Those are happy tears, I know,” Gracelyn said. “Happy tears swirl down your face and sad tears zig zag.”

Next Gracelyn turned looked at me: “I love you daddy. Do you love me?” “With all my heart, sweet girl,” I said. Then, Gracelyn added a new twist: “Now, you two.” So I looked in Shonnie’s eyes and said, “I love you, Shonnie. Do you love me?” And Shonnie then replied, “Yes, I do love you. ” Finally, Shonnie gazed into my eyes and said, “I love you, Bruce. Do you love me? ” And I closed the circle: “Yes, I do love you, Shonnie. ”

So all’s well that ends well. I think Willie Shakespeare said that.

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