(My Life’s Soundtrack – Part 6)
Fast-forward with me from my last post Spread Your Wings (from my teenage years), to Spring 2011, to happier times, for the most recent part of My Life’s Soundtrack.
A few years ago there was an Allied Dunbar advert on telly, featuring Nat King Cole’s Let’s Face the Music and Dance (written by Irving Berlin). This post is as much about the advert as the song. If you don’t remember the ad – and even if you do – I recommend watching it:
If you haven’t clicked on the link above, the ad shows a middle-aged dad confronting his two teenage daughters after discovering a pregnancy test in the family bathroom. “Whose is that?! What do you think you’re playing at? I thought we told you to be careful!” His challenge is met by protests of innocence from the girls.
“John, I think we’re the ones who should have been careful”, explains his wife tenderly.
John turns to the camera in a moment of Morecambe-esque surprise, breaking into song:
There may be trouble ahead
But while there’s music and moonlight and love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance
And the whole advert transforms into a musical comedy, reminiscent of Morecambe & Wise on several levels, and yet simultaneously somehow touching…
I remember, at the time the ad was on telly, thinking: “This is one of the GREATEST adverts EVER!” Both funny and moving. Little did I know how a few years later I would SO relate to this scenario!
We don’t have teenage daughters, but we do have two older children. In April 2011, when we discovered Janine was expecting Hannah, our boys were 13 and 9. When we ventured out into married life some 14 years earlier, we both thought 3 kids would be good, but after having Jono then Greg, we put off and put off and put off, till we thought, “No, no more. Our two boys are enough.”
Now here we were, in our 40s, with our older boys, having ‘done’ the baby years and happily left them behind. Been there, done that, got the bags under the eyes… Now suddenly expecting another little addition to the family! Truth is, we’d semi-jokingly toyed with the idea of another baby in recent times, so this wasn’t a complete surprise!
Anyway, here we were, and the first thing I thought of, when we first realised our situation, was this advert! Watching it now fills my eyes with tears of emotion, while at the same time making me laugh. Mixed emotions at the advert – and mixed emotions at our initial realisation that we were expecting Hannah.
I’m glad that the greatest of comedians
Can bring me to the verge of despair,
And that a quadriplegic
Who paints with his teeth
And taps out prose
One letter at a time
Can remind me
Of the richness of comedy.
(From Gerard Kelly’s poem Glad)
Children are of course a blessing. Always.
Children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127), i.e. although we make our plans to have – or avoid having – a baby, it’s ultimately God who gives the gift of a child. Things don’t always go to plan.
Some say children are ‘on loan’ to us parents.
Hannah is certainly a blessing. In lots of ways. Of course, just being herself as part of our family, is a blessing in its own right. A family sharing its lives together is how it’s meant to be. Perhaps not the only way, but an important, tried and tested way for people to learn from each other, to grow together, to become secure, stable people. To demonstrate love to each other, to enjoy each other’s company, reflecting the communal heart of the triune God.
That’s not always how it works out, but that’s my prayer for our 3 children, in spite of us parents’ faults and weaknesses.
But also, the softening effect Hannah’s had on our boys has been tremendous. Hannah’s been good for them. Jono and Greg dote on their little sister, exercising great patience and compassion, when she pulls their hair or wrecks whatever they were doing. And I think they’re better with each other as a result as well.
We have every reason to dance. We love all our 3 children. They bring us joy. Let’s face the music and dance.
Hannah was meant to be. In God’s eyes, she was always meant to be. Despite our (Janine’s and my) delaying her arrival, she was always meant to be. Can we delay God’s purposes? I think so.
More than one person has said to me, “Now your family is complete”. Did they mean that a family is only complete with 3 children? Probably not – they probably meant that in our case this is how we were meant to be. And they were right.
Of course, at the same time as the joy and blessing of an anticipated new arrival…having done and left behind the baby years, the idea of facing the sleepless nights again, the endless nappy changes again, the continual chase to move dangers and ornaments out of a growing toddler’s reach again…was daunting, to say the least. There will be challenges, perhaps even trouble, ahead. Mixed emotions.
What can you do but dance? What can you do but laugh and rejoice? And go with the flow. This is something God has done. This is something – someone – good that God has given!
Hannah has brought enormous joy and laughter into this family.
Children, of course, are the best dancers. Unhindered by inhibition. We’ve had some lovely times in our kitchen, when we’ve put on some music, and I’ve danced with Hannah. She stomps her feet and bends her knees – naturally, instinctively, always smiling. We’ve faced the music and danced together.
No wonder Jesus calls us to be like little children.
In true dance there’s a letting go, a reckless abandon, a cry of “freedom!”, and emergence of the true self.
In the film Billy Elliott, Billy tries to explain what it feels like when he’s dancing:
“Once I get going, then I forget everything. And I sort of disappear. Like I feel a change in me whole body. Like there’s fire in me body. I’m just there, flying. Like a bird. Like electricity.”
Wow, wouldn’t it be great to dance like that? Better still, to live like that!
Snoopy blissfully declared: “To dance is to live and to live is to dance” (Peanuts).
Dance may represent a wild, unbridled (but not blind) trust in God. Trust that he will give us all the grace we need in the years to come, as he has done till now.
Jesus announced to his followers that they would be able to ‘trample on snakes and scorpions’ (Luke 10). I’m sure he meant that they would have authority to defeat evil spirits and evil in general. But please indulge me while I stretch the meaning a little…
Suppose we lived as he meant us to, with reckless joy and child-like trust. Suppose we ‘danced’ through life? We would trample on troubles, stamp out stresses, dance over disaster…
To live is to dance.