We made a great effort to learn the box, the Lindy, waltz and other basic steps. With each weekly lesson, it was becoming far less than the romantic experience I'd fantasized about.
"Your hand is too high on my back"
"Your hand is to low on my shoulder"
"You're not counting the beat"
"The right foot goes first!"
"No, it's the left!"
"YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO LEAD!"
"YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO FOLLOW!"
Of course, the accusations were very telling; and in other areas besides dance steps. We had issues about roles that existed in much more significant places than our feet. And it has taken years and tears to figure it out. Still working on it.
That's the way my first visit felt with my estranged daughter. (Not the arguing part, but the dance lesson part) I found myself second-guessing each step, bereft of rhythm and clumsy. The roles were all fuzzy and undefined.
At the top of the brick steps, the two met me with smiles on their faces at the front screen door, my daughter and her husband. She gave me a quick shoulder squeeze. He turned my offer of a handshake into a welcoming hug.
That was a little better than expected.
Turning toward her adorable children, age 2 and 4, I was introduced as Angela. Not grandma, mom or Bella, which is what my other daughter April's boys call me.
Thus the awkward dance began.
Here my identity crisis commenced and role confusion set-in. Like a bad dancer, I fumbled. Am I guest? Or separated-for-three-decades- birth-mother?
I couldn't stop staring. She was so beautiful to me, more than in any pictures she had sent. I searched ferociously to find features in common while she was singing 'Rock-a-Bye Baby' to her son in the rocking chair. But finally surrendered to the fact that she favored her father, my high school boyfriend. Maybe there's a gesture, a look in the eye, her love for fabric, her rippling laugh. Something there had to reflect my gene pool. Yes, I think it was the eyes. His were more almond-shaped than mine and hers are oval. She has my eyes, I reached.
pivot-spin-rock on heel
Having just moved in the week before, she apologized for the boxes and clutter. "Your kidding me, I said, "You just moved! I'm just glad you let me come over during such a hectic time."
Then came the house tour, from bottom living room to the rooftop deck that overlooked the bay. She lead me up a ladder to a see a breathtaking 360 degree view of ocean before and mountain behind.
Her husband was on his way out to get the last truckload of items moved, but lingered. He seemed to understand the significance of the moment for both of us. Or maybe he was there just to support his wife during a potentially emotional meeting. It was sweet and I was happy she had such a loving and sensitive man as he.
But it was not emotional.It was not, Lights, Camera, Oprah with sob ridden "I've-Been-Waiting-All- My-Life-To-See-You's."
After all, this was real life, not some scripted talk-show.
Slide, turn, correct move.
Lunch was a bowl of fluffy rice, black beans and fresh spinach leaves. The dog came in, bounded up the stairs and the little ones ran to catch him. Up and down, up and down while I sat and ate like a good guest.
But suddenly, as if a switch flipped in my head, I went into mom-mode and I felt it my duty to help her corral the kids and dog, so I got up to tend to the kids at the bottom of the stairs.
"You can sit down" she firmly said over her shoulder to me.
Pivot hard, back to the table.
Switched from mom role back to guest-role quick!
Totally missed the moves for the line dance, here. Two left feet.
It was obvious that nap time was near as the children were exhibiting that last burst of energy, running around with the dog.
Trying to be useful, I suggested I help put them down with a story, unabashedly going for the grandma role. But my offer was met with a
"They usually just want their mommy," she said. The words snapping me back into being guest.
I so wanted to cradle her face in my hands and reassure her that my relinquishment many years before did not mean I didn't love her. But that moment never presented itself during this first visit. We were far from it.
As we said goodbye on the brick steps, the best I could do was casually slip in a "love you." And just as I turned my back to walk down the steps, I heard her say