Keep dancing

Keep dancing

By Abby Crawford

From when I was a little girl right up until even today, visiting my grandparents was definitely one of the most highly anticipated and loved family events.

Both sets of my grandparents lived far away, so it was always an adventure involving a great deal of packing – both suitcases and then my dad trying to get everything into the car – and lengthy car trips which slowly morphed from playing eye-spy for a solid five hours to my sister and I arguing over song selections in later years, to of course now travelling independently to see our one living grandmother who resides in a nursing home.

I’ve been thinking of our trips so fondly, of arriving to the smell of fresh lemons and baking, of big cuddles and kisses and delighted storytelling as we share important news – the loss of another tooth, coming second in a spelling bee, falling off a bike – our achievements were always celebrated with the greatest of joy and perpetually reframed to be a victorious win. Another tooth falling out didn’t mean you had a gappy smile – it meant the fairies had another pearl. Coming second didn’t mean you just missed out – it meant you were planning to surprise the competition and beat them next time. Falling off your bike didn’t mean you were uncoordinated, it meant you must have been travelling so fast that even your bike couldn’t keep up. We were always heroes, and we were always loved, and everything always felt better.

I have an incredibly clear memory of one particular trip when I was eight years old. I was sitting on my grandpa’s knee, my cheek against his grey wool jumper in the lounge chair in the sunroom. It was warm and I was happy pretending that I was reading the paper that he was so keenly focused on held out in front of him, as I didn’t want to move from my spot. My grandpa owned the Bulk Store in a country town, and he smelt of straw and cows and earthy hard work. He had fought bravely through WWII and I knew that we were all proud of him, because my grandma had all his medals and certificates hung on the hallway walls. My grandpa’s brother was missing from the war, and there was a photo of him too. There were things that were talked about in hushed whispers, like where Dudley might have been lost and whether he might be with the twins my grandma lost when they were just days old. As a young girl, I remember hoping they had been found and were together – it never occurred to me that they meant in heaven.

The grandfather clock chimed its hour keeping time alongside all the photos and memories in the hall. Knowing now how many sad and painful things happened to my family still surprises me, for growing up there was only ever love, determination and a commitment to doing good, being the best, you could be. As my grandpa folded the paper, he asked me a question, “darling, do you know why the Indian rain dance NEVER fails?”. I thought about it, hoping to impress him with my answer. “No Papa, I don’t,” I replied. He looked at me over his glasses, and gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Because they don’t stop dancing until it rains”, and with that he lifted me up onto my feet and we headed to the kitchen to see what grandma was baking. The memory has never left me, and I can still hear his words as clear as day. But it was a long time before what he was really trying to tell me, sunk in.

You see, the most important thing to being successful is to make sure you don’t quit. There’s no magic, instant solutions – even if it sounds like there might be. Life can be really hard at times, and each generation we have something that we are having to deal with. Whether it’s fighting a world war or a battle for mental health, whether it’s losing loved ones or having restrictions that stop us reaching them, whether it’s surviving a recession or trying to survive a business downturn – you just have to keep going. You have to commit to your path and you can’t quit when it feels like nothing is working. Like the Native American Indians and their rain dance, the only reason it always works is because they just keep dancing until it does. And when I realised that, it became my inner voice for many things in life – just keep dancing. Keep dancing, keep believing it will work, and know that there are generations of love that are behind you, willing you to keep going.

So, as our restrictions return, and fear of this pandemic starts to swell in our hearts again – keep dancing. We have to keep going, we have to keep on the path to protect so many of our community. It’s not easy – but no one said it was going to be. We thought we were through the worst of it, but we are going to have to be strong again, we are going to have to keep our resolve and we are going to have to keep our commitment to our path to win the war on this. It breaks my heart to have restrictions so tight in my grandma’s nursing home, but I am more worried about her becoming ill, so we keep dancing. My mother and aunt visit in the limited spots available and we all stay strong in relaying messages of love. It’s not easy – I want to hold her tiny hands in mine and kiss her papery cheek again, and I’m afraid of losing her before I can. But, we have to keep dancing.

The grandfather clock now sits in my hallway, and chimes as it keeps time with my memories. The photos of both my grandfathers and their medals of bravery, sit alongside my own son’s Parliamentary bravery award in my hall, and as he turns from child to man, I ask him the same question, “why does the Indian rain dance never fail my darling?”.

Stay strong. Keep going. Keep dancing. It will work.

With love, Abby x •

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