Monday, May 12, 2014

Dance mom

(Yes, I know Mother’s Day was Sunday. And yes, my card to her was two days late. Guess who I inherited this from.)

It’s always good to do new things with your mom. It’s really helpful when you live in a colorful city like New Orleans, where there’s always something new to do.

My earliest memory is celebrating Mardi Gras in the French Quarter.

Our parents lived in the French Quarter before moving to buy a house a mile away and they would bring us  their small children — to the French Quarter on Mardi Gras day. They would sit my twin sister Joy, older brother Franklin and me on newspaper stands and hang out all day.

“And the gay men were always so nice about you kids being there they would always cover up when they’d see you sitting there,” my mom recalls.

I didn’t know what she was talking about until two years after she first  said it.

And even then, I thought she was talking about their butts.


I believe this was Franklin’s “Freddy Kruger” stage

Bringing elementary school children to the French Quarter on Mardi Gras would have seemed strange to people outside of New Orleans, even people from New York like my mom.

But it was so fun!! We would point out the best costumes people wore – we distinctly remember two professionally-done Energizer bunny costumes and watched them from across Esplanade Avenue with wide-eyed wonder.

We remembered those costumes for years after that Mardi Gras. 

"Remember those Energizer bunnies???"

I still do.

(keeeeeeeps going!...)

In high school, another New Orleans thing happened: Joy and I somehow became engrossed in swing dancing.

We were 16 and learned how to swing dance at Rock n’ Bowl, a still-famous bowling alley and music venue.

Every Thursday was bona fide swing dancing night with Johnny Angel and the Swinging Demons with a beautiful singer named Julia LaShay (I can’t believe I still remember her name!! Yea long-term memory!!), but we couldn’t get in because we were under 18.

So, for well over a year, our mom would BRING US TO ROCK N’ BOWL at 8 p.m. ON A SCHOOL NIGHT (I KNOW!!) with our friends (I KNOW!!) and we’d all dance for a few hour with each other, and select strangers who asked nicely.

If anyone old and creepy, or drunk and sloppy (or all four combined) tried to dance with us, our mom would step in and politely tell them no, no thank you. (These rules still apply to my dancing with strangers policy.)

Our mom knew how to swing dance, because there is very little someone who lived in the French Quarter DOESN’T know how to do.

A family friend even met her husband at Rock n' Bowl and they still today are the best swing dancing married couple I’ve ever seen. (My mom still talks about their amazing first dance as a couple.)

It’s fair to say there’s a lot of dancing in my mom and my relationship.

My mom and I danced at the first Jazz Fest following Hurricane Katrina when Lionel Ritchie took over for Fats Domino.

I was living in South Carolina then, like I am now, but Joy and I drove down for Jazz Fest, eight months after the hurricane hit.

It was the first time that it felt normal afterwards even though it so, so, so wasn’t, and when Fats Domino had a last-minute health emergency and had to cancel, everyone was somber.

But then Lionel Ritchie came out in his place, and knowing the enormity of the shoes he had to fill – the last performer on the last day of Jazz Fest 2006...and taking place for Fats Domino – he performed harder than any other artist I’ve ever seen to date. He absolutely killed it. He loves New Orleans.

“I’m gonna sing every Commodores song I can remember even if it violates copyright!” he screamed and everyone laughed and cheered.

I turned that Jazz Fest trip into an article when I got back to my job as a newspaper reporter in South Carolina.

And I put a picture of me and my mom dancing together as the photo to go along with the article and my mom ordered a framed copy. It still hangs today on a very frequented wall in my parents’ house. 

I can you top Lionel, right??

What else could my mom and I possibly do new together?

(Ed note: My mom and I have also been horseback riding, water skiing, sat through the absolute worst improv comedy we’ve ever seen, a New Orleans “fringe” dance show with dancers emulating park animals, live plays and shorts about the importance of costuming on Mardi Gras.)

Certainly, there are attempts to do new things, like the yearly “let’s all go water-rafting” email from my mom and Joy that my dad, brother and I politely ignore (haha).

I didn’t think there was much left that we haven’t done.

But then I remembered that…duh…my mom and I have never danced together to a 1920s dance before!!

(forehead slap!)

Of course! It was one of the most fun experience I’ve ever had!

It was my last two months living in New Orleans and it was the perfect way to get in one more experience.

So I asked, and then begged her to come with me to the new session of The Chrous Girl Project. She caved.

We’d practice diligently during the week, the night I’d stop by my parents’ house to eat dinner. After we’d eat, my mom and I would stand in front of the computer, we’d pull up the video, pull back the rug and dance on the hardwood floor.

The day of our public (“non-living room”) performance, I even did my mom’s eye makeup (even with my very little knowledge about such things).

I remember my mom was so supportive, she made me feel better when I had a mild panic attack before the performance during rehearsals because I kept missing a cue.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be way worse than you,” she said. “And we’re dancing side by side.”

I felt better.

“Ok, don’t stop smiling whole time,” I countered.

It was one of those “only in New Orleans” moments where everything just comes together and would not have anywhere else in the world – my mom and I dancing together! In a line! In sync! To a 1920s dance! In public! 


We loved it!! And she's still doing it!!!

It’s good to do new things with mom, especially if you have a mom that likes to do stuff and you really enjoy her company.

I wish I was dancing with her today…er…Mother’s Day…because ever since I moved back to South Carolina last December, I really miss my dancing partner. And her company.

But I will take comfort in the fact that there is always something new to do and I can’t wait to see what we’ll do together next.

But seriously.

No whitewater rafting.




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