Dance With Cinderella

Hugh O. Smith

It happens suddenly.

One minute I’m staring up at the ceiling, listening to the creaks and shudders of a house settling down for the night and wishing, hoping praying that just for once I could fall asleep like a normal person, then the next I’m in a frantic dreamland fun house occupied by every bogeyman I’ve ever been afraid of. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about loss, so my dreams are saturated with sad goodbyes that translate, when I wake up, into a fog of emotion that should burn away in the sunlight but never does. The worst ones involve my daughter and her walking away to a far-away building. She enters and some hazy form is just inside the doorway, someone I feel I should know but don’t. She embraces him/her then shuts the door without looking back. She is gone, and I know without anyone telling me that I won’t ever see her again.

Maybe it’s the season. Maybe it’s me coming to terms with things I should have a long time ago. Or maybe, as a friend told me, I’m mourning, finally.

I had no idea. Then one day last week my daughter and I were watching television and she found a channel playing the song This Moment (Dance with Cinderella.)

“Daddy,” she said. “It’s the song we danced to at the father-daughter dance. Remember, at the recital?”

I did remember. The father-daughter dance is usually the last number at her dance recitals and last year the song was Dance with Cinderella, the kind of song about a father and daughter I might have made fun of in another life. Now that I am a father, with a daughter, the song about a dad watching his little girl grow up and get married gets me every single time. During rehearsals the song played over and over and over, and over and over a roomful of men, tough resilient men, men of all races and ages linked by the common thread of our love of our little girls, wiped their eyes and pretended not to see the emotion welling in one another as we danced with our beautiful daughters.

I felt the emotion again and began to think about the dream I had the night before and how the song fit perfectly into my fears of losing what I loved.  Then…

“Dance with me Daddy.”

I stood up and tried to remember the steps and for the next three minutes we danced, me trying not to step on her feet, she trying to get in as many twirls and spins as one gorgeous six-year old ballerina could in so short a time. When the song was over we danced some more to another song, then another, then another.

It wasn’t until later, after I’d kissed her good night, that I realized I’d missed the point of the song, of my dreams, of life. Stop worrying about what may come and enjoy what is. I wasted time agonizing about the future when the present is here to be lived. I still don’t know what my dreams meant, or why I was having them but now it doesn’t seem as important.

‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone…

 

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