Laughter, Tears, and Our Teen Years, by McKennaugh
The Volkswagen van jumped over another bump in the road and I turned to look at my brother, Brennan. His face was sort of pale and drawn and he was looking at me pleadingly. I know he was thinking, You’re the one who wanted to go, so you’d better get me out of this, sis.
He was right; I was the one who had wanted to go. I also realized at about this moment that it was probably a real bad idea of mine.
We were going to a square dance.
Brennan had no idea how to square dance.
And neither did I.
“I’m not gonna do it,” he said.
“You’d better,” I told him, “or else I won’t have a partner. Nobody else is going to dance with me, because I don’t know a thing about square dancing.”
“I don’t want to!” he insisted.
“C’mon guys,” Mom says. “You will have fun; you all need to at least try it.”
Nevin shakes his head. “Not me. I am not gonna do it.”
“You’ll like it!” Mom says. “Besides, you can’t be any worse than me. I’ve never square danced.”
We know that she hasn’t. But we also know that our mother—and father, for that matter—are great dancers. It’s one of their favorite things to do. They don’t do any special steps or follow people’s instructions, they just start whipping each other around, and, believe it or not, they’re good. Real good. But to square dance you follow instructions, right? At least my parents like dancing in general. When my siblings and I hear the word dance, we try to fade into the corners of the room.
We’re getting closer to our destination now, and Brennan is fidgeting with his cowboy hat and shooting looks at me. He wants to know why in the world I wanted to go. The truth is, I went to a square dance when I was eight years old. It was held in a barn and, boy, was it fun. It was fun because I was eight. Back then, I was still in that precious stage of childhood where I had not yet learned to be embarrassed. I remember asking a boy I knew to be my partner for a song. He was about four years older than me, probably old enough to know that I really couldn’t square dance. “Sure!” he had said. Then he disappeared into the dark and didn’t come back until quite a few songs later when he was pretty sure I had forgotten my request. So, instead, I danced with a lady who had a giant hat and funky clothes. Now I was almost seventeen, though, and I am not sure why I wanted to make a fool of myself just because I had enjoyed myself at a square dance when I was eight.
When we reached Mount Pisgah, where the dance was going to be, we slid out of the car. Slowly. my brothers trailed behind me, complaining. I took one look at the pavilion under which everyone was dancing and noticed two things: 1.) We were the youngest people there and my parents were the second youngest. 2.) These people were good at dancing.
I wished that there had been at least a few kids so that we didn’t feel like the only people who were going to totally goof up.
After watching everybody for 60 seconds, I was just as terrified as my brothers. My parents tried it first. That was quite funny. They are usually so awesome at dancing, but this time they were going the wrong way, being pushed in the right directions by those who knew how to square dance, and desperately trying to grasp some sort of concept that made sense.
Then I made Brennan go out onto the dance floor with me. We were accepted into this group of people. “We don’t know how to do this,” I told them. “Do you mind?”
They tried not to. “Do you know aleman left?” they asked.
“Ummm, not really.”
And then we started dancing. Actually, tripping over each other while going the wrong way. I was laughing, because I knew if I stopped laughing, I would probably start screaming.
I realized something. When two klutzes are partners, they mess up something terrible. The poor group that was instructing us must have seen this, as well, so what did they do? A woman took Brennan to be her partner and a man took me.
During the end of the third song, we started to grasp aleman left. Then everyone stopped square dancing and started round dancing, so my brothers and I left to eat some of the pie I had brought.
We were swallowing the last bit of pie when I saw some of the people that we had been with waving us over. What? Were they crazy? Did they actually want us to go stomp all over their toes and twist their arms around backwards again? Did they actually hold hope that we could learn?
So we followed them into the pavilion and joined hands. And we danced. And we laughed. And we started going in some of the right directions. I could hardly believe it; we were having fun!!
Eight songs later, when the sky had turned dark, the moon shone down, and the last tune was being played, we were doing the aleman left and getting a feel for the beat. At least a little bit. Behind us, Nevin was trying to dance with Mom, and whenever I caught his attention I’d give him a thumbs-up. Don’t stop, Nev, I know the first few songs you do will be awful, but it’ll get better.
When people started heading off to their cars and the band starting packing up all their equipment, Brennan and I shook hands with our group and thanked them for teaching us. It had been no small task.
As we heading for our Volkswagen, Brennan turned to me with a grin. “Let’s go to the square dance that’s happening Monday night!”
I nodded, “Yeah!” I knew that we would probably still have to dance another 200 songs before we got to knowing something besides aleman left, but that was okay.
“I guess I do like square dancing,” Brennan said. “I just don’t like the other kinds of dancing.”
“You know why we don’t?” I asked him.
“Because we’ve never tried!”
Laughing, we climbed into the van, knowing that maybe we’d be daring each other to try a few more new things soon.
McKennaugh Kelley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is sixteen years old. She lives in Troy, Pennsylvania with a handful of crazy, creative, but mostly wonderful little brothers.