Putting The Fun In Dysfunctional Calls For A Little Prayer
Girls just wanna have fun ...
Finding fun in a dysfunctional family isn’t easy. I have tried it all this summer. My intentions were always good. Sometimes human nature got in my way.
I put up a badminton net to play with my kids so they wouldn’t sit in front of the TV all day. Anyone watching would have thought we were the picture of perfect suburban bliss. But our first game ended with me running in the house yelling at my son,
“I gave you life! You can’t give me the point when my birdie lands on the line?”
I took my daughter shopping to spend her babysitting money. After a few hours of low blood sugar levels we pulled into the driveway bickering like two old ladies. I hit a new low when the straw of her teenage taunt broke my camel’s back.
“You’re so mean!” she said for the hundredth time this summer.
I slammed the car in park, shoved my nose into my teenage beauty’s and shouted,
“YOU’RE so mean!”
“I KNOW!” she screamed, before we burst into a fit of hypoglycemic hysteria.
“We are so dysfunctional!” she said as we locked wounded eyes through tearful laughter.
I knew I needed to get away for a break with my girlfriends. But we were scraping the bottom of the budget barrel for summertime fun. I entered the house determined to find a low cost night out. But before I could shut the door I heard my daughter scream.
“Mom! Something’s wrong with the washing machine!” Running into the laundry room our ancient washer was screeching in horror. It sounded like it was in agony. The scream became a whistle, the floor flooded and something smelled like burned toast.
I looked up at the ceiling and tried to channel our pastor’s prayer from the previous Sunday morning,
“Let us focus on all we have,” I heard as the blood boiled between my ears.
My daughter, sensing an emotional breakdown, read my mind and steadied my shoulders to prevent a total meltdown.
“Remember Mom! You still have me!”
She was right. I knew it. But Momma was beginning to feel like a worn out old appliance. I needed some fun to call my own.
So when my friends from high school asked me to join them for a night of dancing to 80’s and 90’s songs, I dug up my pennies and headed south to let my hair down.
There’s no place like home and there is nothing, but nothing, like dancing with your girlfriends to put the spring back in your step.
I plonked down $7 dollars to listen to the outstanding band, “Then Again” play all our high school favorites for a value that made me hunger for life south of I-80. The gorgeous, “CD&ME” venue had outdoor patio seating and a pergola stage where the band of five fun filled rock stars played new life into their groupies. Nobody cared that it was 90 degrees in the dark. We were dying to get up and get our middle-aged bodies moving to the beat before kids were born.
Within minutes we were sweating it out on the floor as the band cranked out U2 ,Bon Jovi and Journey hits. Our hair wilted and our makeup drained away while we belted out the songs with the band.
“He’s singing to me!” my friend shouted to me as we danced.
“No, he’s singing to ME!” I screamed and we laughed together.
After dancing to just a few songs I felt the pressure of raising my delightfully dysfunctional family release into the sizzling sky. I didn’t have to do the right thing. I didn’t have to say the right thing. I didn’t have to fit in with anyone else. It was true, perfect joy in a pair of sweaty capris and mascara streaked cheeks.
Just when I thought the night couldn’t get any better, the band got quiet to prepare for their big hit. A slow hum made its way to the audience. Four raucous men centered themselves and backed up the lead singer.
“Hummmmmmm,” sang the backup band. Then came the charismatic, lead singer’s serene, higher than normal, yet perfectly pitched rendition of an old favorite. This one was for every woman who ever teased 10-inch bangs, loaded up her arms with bangle bracelets and overdosed on eyeliner. He put his palms together, straightened his back and sang sincerely.
“Life is a mystery/everyone must stand alone/ I hear you call my name/and it feels like... HOME.”
Just like a prayer had been answered, dozens of women over 40 years old took to the dance floor and let the stresses and strains of their lives evaporate into the humid summer air while our rock gods indulged us in hilarious harmony.
We screamed the words that Madonna taught us long before we worried about mortgages, child abductions or remembering not to swear in front of the children. We fell over each other as we sang, delighted that the band gave us our joy back. We polished the glow that had become dulled by a thousand Google searches for how to be a better parent, dozens of blow outs with our children and a million tears we shed with the girlfriends who had weathered each storm with us.
Right there, on that sweltering south suburban night, I put the fun back into my life.
But after a few hours I knew I would have to haul my sweaty Cinderella smile into my minivan and pick up my kids from my mom’s house a few miles away.
High on endorphins, high school memories and the joy of waving my hands in the air, I entered the back door of house I grew up in. I walked up the same stairs I teetered down on Prom night 25 years earlier to see my mom wrapped up with my kids watching TV. She took one look at my sweat soaked clothes and shiny shellacked hair and hit me with a retro remark that only your mother can pull off.
“You look like you peed your pants!”
I laughed hard when I looked down to see she was right. It didn’t matter because it felt good to be home with my dysfunctional family again. That night, a prayer had been answered.
And I rocked it all the way home with my minivan full of kids.