Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scenes from Silver Creek: The Mambo Contest

Between them my mother and father were on every church committee in town. Dad ran the Our Lady of Angels bingo game every Monday night for at least 5 years. He was president of the father’s club. Ran the concession booth at the fall festival. Drove the mini bus for the senior trip to Reno.

Mom was equally busy over at St. Edith’s Episcopal. President of the ladies guild. Did the Sunday flowers every second weekend of the year for a dozen years. Co-chair of the St. Edith’s fashion show.

And, of course, they went to every dinner, dance, and pageant that both churches threw.

And while the adult in me applauds their community spirit, the kid I was cringed as we got roped into yet another horrible job of busing tables, making cotton candy, running a spotlight, and generally used as slave labor for God.

But, in many ways, I was repaid for all of this on the night my parents entered the St. Edith’s Valentine’s Dance Mambo Contest.

As usual I’d been volunteered by my mom for something. I tried to argue that dad was raising me Catholic and my allegiance was to OLA and I had proved that allegiance the previous month by getting up at 6 am on a Saturday to pour coffee at the pancake breakfast.

Mothers do not accept arguments. And so the day of the dance I spent hours climbing ladders (which I hate) and scotch taping red construction paper hearts all over the walls of the St. Edith’s cafeteria. Fun! I also had to sweep, set up roughly 347,000 folding chairs, and frost 8 million cupcakes with Pepto-pink frosting.

And then she dropped the bombshell….oh yes, she had also volunteered me to pour punch at the dance itself. There was I, stupidly thinking that working all day got me out of having to go to the dance itself. Silly me. Nope. She did give in and take me to McDonalds for dinner, but then it was straight back to the chain gang.

No greater hell exists than being 14 years old and being forced to watch your parents and your friends’ parents dance.

But it was actually pretty funny. I mean who would have known that Mr. and Mrs. Foster, owners of Speedy Dry Cleaners, would turn out to be the Fred and Ginger of Silver Creek? They did moves I’d never seen outside of the late-late show. And all without ever looking the other in the face. The looked at the floor, at the other dancers, at my crummy construction paper hearts, but never at each other. It was the weirdest thing.

Our neighbors, the Blocks, turned out to have four left feet. And the Reverend Polehouse and his wife did a fine job of turning every single dance into a foxtrot.

But the big surprise was when they announced the Mambo contest and my mom and dad got onto the floor. Really? My parents could mambo?

Mr. Lucas, who was acting as DJ and master of ceremonies, put on some classic Perez Prado and the couples began to move. Reverend Polehouse seemed to recognize the futility of trying to turn his foxtrot into a mambo and volunteered to be the judge. One extremely apologetic tap on the shoulder and a couple was eliminated.

The Blocks were the first to go. Not surprising considering the fact that before the vocals even began they had bumped into each other and Mr. Block’s glasses had fallen off. But as couple after couple were scuttled, my parents danced on. My dad, who I’d never seen do anything more athletic than mow the lawn, was Mr. Smooth out there. He did this hip wiggle thing that was so hilarious even my mother laughed. And mom….well mom was more uninhibited than I’d ever seen her. If I hadn’t been serving the punch myself I would have thought it had been spiked and she was dancing under the influence.

But nope, she was just having fun. I was so unused to it that it took me by surprise.

But what was more surprising was the fact that my parents, my staid and conservative parents, won the St. Edith’s Valentine’s Dance Mambo Contest. Dinner for two at Mariani’s Steak Pit.