Dancing Down Memory Lane

by Amy Mcgarry

My 11-year-old daughter is already moving out of her Tik Tok obsession. But, like most kids her age, she’s still obsessed with music. Her favorite pastime is listening to music downstairs in her kid cave. Don’t tell her, (she’d be mortified), but I can hear her singing along at the top of her lungs. She listens on Alexa, who obediently responds to her request to play literally any song she chooses. Or she uses her phone, which, between Spotify and YouTube, offers countless selections for more music she might like. She knows thousands of songs. 

I kind of miss the Tik Tok obsession. During her Tik Tok phase, she spent hours watching videos of others’ dance moves to certain songs until she could recreate the whole dance for me. If only she committed that kind of time and those memorization skills to school learning.

I often find myself thinking about myself at my daughter’s age. So much has changed. And yet so much has remained the same. When I was her age, it was the late 1970s. My older sister had a phonograph record player in her bedroom and a small collection of albums. I spent countless hours listening to those albums, reading the lyrics on the album’s paper folder, and yes, dancing in front of the mirror. 

The late 70s ushered in the days of disco, with John Travolta showing us what it was all about in the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” I thought disco was the coolest thing ever. I even talked my mom into buying me a book that taught the steps to the most popular dances. Imagine! Using a book to learn to dance! I was determined to master “The Hustle” to gain clout with my friends. My goal was to be the best dancer in my class. 

We were blessed with a young, handsome, new music teacher who made every Friday dance day in music class. We’d get to bring in our own album or ‘45 to play while we showed off our dance moves in front of the class. He even gave up his lunch hours to judge couples’ dance contests. 

We didn’t have Tik Tok, but we had Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand”, which aired every Saturday morning. “American Bandstand” featured the coolest teenagers dancing to Top 40 music. Unlike with Tik Tok videos, I only got one shot at learning the dance moves from these disco ducks, but it didn’t stop me from dancing along in front of the TV. Here I perfected my moves like The Funky Chicken, The Bump, The Roll, and of course, the famous Travolta Disco Finger, aka, The Point, where you point up in the air on one side, down towards the floor on the other, all the while shaking your hips like nobody’s business.

Taking our cue from the older teenagers, in the sixth grade we convinced our parents to let us host and attend dance parties. I remember my first like it was yesterday. It was a Halloween party. I was almost twelve, the same age as my daughter. We played “Two Minutes in the Closet”, which was one step above “Spin the Bottle” in that you had to spend two minutes locked in a dark closet with another person. That’s how I experienced my first kiss, except I’m not sure if it counts, because with the darkness of the closet and the boy’s inexperience, his brief smooch mostly missed my lips. We were growing up in more innocent times. 

Fast forward forty years. These times are not so innocent. Do sixth graders even have Halloween dance parties in their basements anymore? Certainly not this Halloween. Last Halloween I was pondering when my kid would be too old to go out trick or treating. With her newly acquired braces, that would be a bad idea even without pandemic restrictions. 

Feeling especially nostalgic this Halloween, I want to celebrate the 30th anniversary of my first dance party. My plan is to pull up YouTube on the big screen TV in the living room, and have a disco dance party for two, my daughter and me. Given it will be Halloween, we have an excuse to dress up in outrageous 70s disco garb. I will teach my kid the dances my friends and I showcased at our Halloween dance party. I’ll let her mock me, but I’ll correct her when she calls me Boomer. I’ll remind her I’m a Gen-Xer, proud to have grown up in the age of disco and basement dance parties. I’ll tell her all about the good old days, how I practiced along to “American Bandstand” having learned the moves from a book.

I haven’t decided yet if I will tell her about my first almost-kiss in the closet. Probably not. Some memories are best kept unsaid.

Amy McGarry grew up in Spokane Valley, Washington. After a 20 year hiatus, she moved back to Spokane Valley where she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is the author of “I am Farang: Adventures of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand” available on Amazon.com, Auntie’s Bookstore, and Barnes and Noble.