Hey there, young killer. I am the joy that arose in your mother’s soul when Spotify’s “Kitchen Mom” playlist shuffled up the song “Groove Is In The Heart” by Deee-Lite. Hush, yes, that IS the correct number of Es—it’s that kind of unbridled skepticism that shrunk me to nothing. Just listen!
Conditions were perfect: afternoon light poured in the window above the sink highlighting the crumblessness of the counter; her new jeans made her ass feel friendly and famous; you, her dear, were home from school, eating a wholesome snack instead of packaged crunch; and ten minutes before you got off the bus she had received this encouraging text from a friend: “Maybe we should stop trying to feel better than this.”
The song came out of her phone with a hot promise up front: “We’re going to dance.” The beat hit right as she closed the dishwasher and that’s when my (figurative) head began to peek out from back-back behind the ill-fitting bra she’s going to keep forever because it cost over $30.
Do you know, lil sourpuss, what I had to bypass before I could even consider peeking? Joy doesn’t just arise—joy must first defeat, squash, deny!
In order to exist, I had to dodge your mom’s persistent thoughts about:
Changing the sheets
Daylight Savings Time
That thing she said to her sister, which she meant but was nevertheless a bit too close to the bone, and the fact that she said it means that her sister can and will retaliate by telling your mother some hard truth about her-own-self which she doesn’t want to hear because she’s tried, honestly, and she’s pretty sure she can’t change anything about herself
The hefty weight of her once-shiny potential
Between two and five Evites in need of RSVPs
Drug resistant bacteria
The rearview image of the squirrel she ran over in the nineties
The fact of death
The ubiquity of plastic
This is not an exhaustive list. I’m joy, not diligence! But you get the idea, right?
The song got going and as the groove asserted itself, your mom reached for two wooden spoons from the crock near the stove—one slotted, one solid—and felt moved to bang them together with the beat.
Here you looked up, not yet horrified but clearly dismayed. My mother has made a sound that is not in service of my needs. She is… clapping with spoons?
You couldn’t know this from watching her spoon routine, but your mother had been transported back to a night at the skating rink, twenty five years ago. She was thirteen and her friend Denise had worked some magic on your mom’s hair, braiding and spraying it back, away from her face, to give her that cheekbone-debut feeling. She was wearing a new outfit too—a jean jumper dress with a chest pocket she used to hold her Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker. No one since Corduroy the bear had been that thrilled about a pocket’s existence. She’d recently shaved her legs for the first time, and as she skated in circles, the gleam of the hardwoods complimented and enhanced the gleam of her shins and calves.
The song came out of the overhead speakers with a hot promise up front: “We’re going to dance.” She and Denise held hands and picked up speed. They passed a couple 9th grade boys waiting for corn dogs and she locked eyes with the one who had a bowl cut. The fact that he was still and she was going fast felt hot. This high-speed hotness coincided with the trembly slide-whistle part of the song, and your mother understood, then, that sex was something she would experience herself, with her very body. She let go of Denise.
She put down the spoons.
The chorus was coming and her shoulders were ready. Her hips couldn’t help it. There would be singing, she’d become a performance. “Groove is in the heaa—.” She slammed into a man who’d stopped to retie his daughter’s skate. She slammed into THAT LOOK YOU GAVE HER while you chewed an apple.
It was disgust, let’s face it. You were disgusted and unsettled to see your mother’s blatant happiness and her declaration right in the kitchen that she’d had sex using her very body. This is a normal reaction, you are not the worst beast. But, nevertheless, you killed me. I was over. The song went on alone, no longer accompanied by singing or spoons.
Your mother loved you too much to feel crestfallen. She rinsed the wooden spoons and lay them flat to dry. She picked up her phone and let a fellow parent know you’d be happy to attend their laser tag party. Her mind flashed to that bisected squirrel and she remembered with bone-certainly that she, too, would die. (I’m not even trying to guilt you, but you should go ahead and feel rotten. One moment she was the incarnation of loopy youth; the next she was picturing her own funeral, and your downturned mouth and upturned nose caused that detour.)
So how ‘bout the next time you see your mother shaking and bending, keeping yet transcending time, and building toward a chorus, please feel free to take your visceral facial reaction and shove it into a book, or smash it against a digital screen. Hell, take it on over to the wall. Quickly comb your hair over your eyes! Go down into your elbow, feigning a sneeze-stance! I don’t care what tactic you chose, but if you try to snuff me out again, I swear to god I will convince your momma to put her thumbs in her belt loops and do the tush push until dinner time.