Longtime readers will remember when my goddaughter was born, instantly becoming The World’s Most Beautiful Baby. I blinked my eyes and she was One. Then she turned Two and earned a new title as World’s Most Beautiful Toddler. Not that Amelia May has ever actually toddled. As I noted on her birthday post last year, one of the most astounding things about her is her amazing physical grace. From a crawl, she stood up to run, jump, tumble and gavotte. On January 7th, she turned Three and became a full fledged dancer. I mean a real dancer. Put on any DVD and she can copy the steps exactly while adding her own choreographic twist. We’ve tried it with everything: the Shake a Tail Feather scene from The Blues Brothers, the ballet sequence from An American in Paris, the Von Trapps jumping up and down those Austrian steps. She can even transcribe choreography. How else to explain how she watches those old Esther Williams swimming extravaganzas and translates them into her own interpretive dance on dry land.
I’m taking a little credit for this. After all, Amelia May, you were just past One when I taught you the moves to YMCA. Believe me, that will stand you in good stead at certain parties. I also bought you your first tap shoes. Although I had nothing to do with those Bill “Bojangles” Robinson moves you picked up on your own.
Clearly, the Dr. Seuss I invoked last year is no longer valid. This birthday wish is courtesy of Jackson Browne. Because I think Jackson had it right: the first step to an open mind and an open heart may be a dance step. I can’t help believing that you already know that.
Keep a fire for the human race
And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound
And a joyful sound is exactly what you make every day, Amelia May. You don’t really understand this, but a few months ago, your mother’s family went through a tough time. What pulled everyone through was your unbridled joy at everything and every day. Every morning you woke up and danced. That made all the difference.
‘Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
So keep right on dancing, Amelia May. There’s an old saying that you can’t understand a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. But you’ve danced at least a mile each in the shoes of such diverse people as Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines, Ann Miller and those folk dancers of Oaxaca in the DVD I brought back from Mexico. I can’t help believing, for you, that will translate to an understanding and embrace of humanity in all its colors, flavors, sizes and shapes. I’ll quote more lyrics. But, even though I haven’t yet pulled all my old albums from college days out of storage and introduced you to them, I know you understand intuitively exactly what Jackson is saying:
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone
Happy Third Birthday, Amelia May. Keep right on dancing.
Amelia May, in your spirit, which always puts your own twist on every dance, I’m posting your birthday song. But a version with a country twist by two of my favorite ladies, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. Besides, I don’t think we’ve tackled country line dancing. That will come soon.
Note: all photos were taken by Amelia May’s mother, The World’s Most Beautiful Mommy. Somehow whenever Amelia’s dancing, I’m trying to match her steps — which is a losing proposition and usually leaves me too exhausted to click the shutter.