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It was a couple days before Christmas, and Norah, my six-year-old, and I were dancing in the kitchen. We were listening to Christmas music on the iPad, I cant recall the exact song, probably “Baby Its Cold Outside,” something that was danceable. It was evening and my wife, Mel, was baking cookies.
Norah was wearing a blue dress with matching leggings. On her shirt was a penguin. Neither of us knew how to dance, but we tried to pretend we did. I dipped her, and she twirled, and eventually I got tired of bending over, so I just picked her up, placed her on my right hip, and we danced in and out of the living room.
Norah giggled with each swoop, and looked at me with big blue eyes, sweet and soft, her checks still a little pink from being a toddler, but her smile and long brow nhair was that of a pre-teen. She was in this transitional phase. A mix of young child, grade school girl, and teenage young woman. She stomped her feet when she didnt get what she wanted, and cried when she scuffed her knees. And yet she was a little boy crazy, and she seemed to think that I was the best boy of them all.
Every time I look at that little girl, I melt. Her smile, her voice, everything about her makes me feel warm and protective at the same time, and as we danced, I was so happy to know that I was her first dance partner. Sure wed danced before. Wed been dancing like this for a few years now, but I dont know if Id ever sat down and realized how wonderful it was for me, her father, to be active enough in her life to continue to dance with her.
Norah wiggled down onto the floor. Then she took both of my hands and said, Lets do the big finale.
This was one of our signature moves. I lifted Norah up by the hips, and she straightened out her body, one arm out with a fist like a super hero, the other at her side, her legs in a V shape. I held her above my head, and thought about the first time wed performed a big finale, she was probably two years old. She was a lot lighter then. I didnt really have to worry about keeping her in the air.
But now, over the years, its changed a bit. I dont know if shes getting that much bigger (she still seems very small to me) or I am getting weaker, or perhaps, and this is most likely, it is a little bit of both. Im starting to have a hard time holding her up for very long. My shoulders quickly start to burn, and I worry that Im loosing my grip, but looking in her bight eyes and wide smile I know that she is loving every moment of our big finale, and so I hold on as long as possible, usually close to a minute.
And as I sat her down, I wondered how much longer she will want to dance with me. I wondered if she will, one day, decide that what we are doing is lame, or embarrassing.
Im already running into some of this with Tristan, Norahs older brother. He doesnt like to let me hug him in public anymore. And he doesnt like to hold my hand. In so many ways I am beginning to be the old, embarrassing, dude: a role that dads slide into all too quickly and easily.
And as I looked at Norah, hoping that this moment would never end, I felt a tug at my right pant leg. It was Aspen, Norahs younger sister. She was getting close to two, her hair short and blond, but her eyes the same blue as Norahs.
She didnt have any pants on. On her feet were mismatched Minion socks, one blue and one pink. She had on a diaper and a red long sleeved shirt. She spoke in grunts and tugs, but it was clear that she wanted to dance with me, too.
Perhaps its because Norah and I had been laughing so much, or maybe she just wanted to mimic her older sister. I dont know, but what I do know is that I picked her up, placed her on my hip, and we danced around the house. Aspen gave me a half smile, half confused look. Norah watched from the sofa, laughing, and making suggestions, Show her the dip! or Dance into the kitchen.
It was our first dance, but I knew it wouldnt be our last.
And near the end of the song Norah said, Do the big finale with Aspen.
So I set her down, placed my hands on her soft little hips, and lifted her up over my head. She went straight for a bit. But then she went limp, letting her body fold in half. She looked confused and a little frustrated, and eventually I set her down on the floor.
Next time, I said. We will work on that big finale some more.
And then Norah placed her arm around Aspen and said, I will teach you how to do a big finale. They are pretty much the coolest things.
I knew that Norah was about to finish dancing with me. But I also knew that Aspen was about to begin. And as I watched them walk away, I felt good. I felt warmth in my heart that only comes when spending time with my two little girls.
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