My brother, Steven, rightly claims that he got the first dance with my first daughter, Kerra. As I recall, we were at a family wedding reception when he picked up my toddling daughter and grinned while informing me: “Looks like I’m getting the first dance with Kerra!” He reminds me of that just about anytime we are at a wedding and there is dancing involved.
I have recently been revisiting my journals that I have been keeping for almost 25 years, and was given a gift to relieve some of the sting of not having had that first dance with Kerra. Whatever cards and notes and written memorabilia I collect during a particular season of journaling goes into a pocket of the cover of that journal, or simply tucked into the inside cover when my journal has no pocket. I came across an undated “Thank You” from Kerra, and it referred to “that extremely sweet note” that I had written her. In her note to me she shared: “The thought of you even chaperoning my dance in middle school made me want to kill you guys! Even though it was just dancing! But to let you come in and dance! (Ha ha) what a change.” She continued: “I also was honored to have my last dance of the junior prom with my father.… I will remember this prom forever though. Thanks for the dance. XOXO I love you.”
It made me smile on many levels. Kerra has given us our first granddaughter, Emaline, and it is just fun and rewarding to think on her life transitions from middle-school-paranoia of the highest order – one’s father threatening to “hang out” at a middle school dance – to high school proms, to marriage, and finally to motherhood. The writing gods rewarded me with the details of what transpired to cause our writing each other. As I leafed through the volume of my journal where I found the note, I came upon an entry in April 2004. I wrote from Washington DC, where I was ironically chaperoning a middle school trip with my younger daughter, Lindsay.
From my journal: Kerra had told us about a week before prom (this past Friday night), parents of officers were expected to help with decorating. So Leann and I arranged to be present and help her do that. What we didn’t know until just 24 hours or so prior to the event was that we also had to help tear down at 11:45 PM! I lovingly and jokingly told her, “Okay, but I get the last dance!” She laughed and said “Okay.”
Friday night (we weren’t supposed to be there until 11:45) she called me about 11:15 to ask where we were, and to say she and her date we’re ready to go and that they already played the last dance and I missed it and she wanted to dance with me! So we hustled over to Vanderbilt Stadium Club and found Kerra. She got the DJ to play one more slow song and we got to dance! I was so happy and delighted and almost “lost it” as we stepped out on the dance floor – her looking radiant and beautiful in her aqua blue gown and her hair fixed so pretty. I made it through about half the dance before I had to turn it back over to her date to finish the dance so I could go back and collect my thoughts. I hope she knows how much I love her and appreciate her asking me to dance with her!
There were a couple more things in the thank you note that I did not mention. One of them was Kerra’s admission of crying when she read my note to her. Because she was honest with me about that, I guess I should be honest with her – that when I dictated my journal entry into this blog post, I had to stop about three times. Would you like to guess why? There are many thoughts and ideas, much musing and pondering that I could share on this blog. It seems that I devote most of it to writing about my children. The truth is that I will never be able to share all that I have learned from them by being their father – there’s just not enough white space to write it all. The other truth is I could write every day for the rest of my life and never express the joy and gratitude and thanksgiving that I have at being given my beautiful children: Kerra, Lindsay, and Matt.
Waaaah! I think that with each addition to the family tree there are more leaves of memories that fall, and we run frantically trying to catch them all before they hit the ground to be raked up and tossed away. The blogs you post and the journals you keep contain all those leaves that have been bagged up in your heart and give you a tangible means of reliving them. Now that we’ve added baby “Jane Jane January” to our family tree, I am more thankful each and every day for the way in which God fills our hearts with more love for another “leaf.” And, truly, your granddaughter is one of the most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen (no great-aunt bias, truly!), and I am excited to be looking in on your tree as we are getting nearer the end of additions to our family tree (sans any children Brett might add in our old(er) age!) I’m sure more beautiful babies will be coming your way, and I can visualize that somewhere in the future you and Leann will procure a small “vacation” cabin located somewhere just outside Columbia for Granddaddy and GiGi’s longer-term visits. You can always guest-preach at a church around there!