By Anne Maxwell
Author of Grace in Ordinary Time
NEW BOOK: Faith in Extraordinary Times
My family didn’t always take a summer vacation.
Our family vacations required harvest, weather, crops, and markets aligning and the stars shining in order for Dad to be in any kind of mood to pack up and head off for an excursion that involved people, traffic, and the occasional amusement park.
So when a high school friend invited me to join her and her parents in Wichita for a few days while her own father attended a conference the summer before my sophomore year, I wholeheartedly accepted.
We loaded up early in the morning and headed east down I-70 in their conversion van.
It was heaven.
I was used to my family of six crowding into the station wagon with a bit of drama, too much luggage, and more than one round of arguments about who had to sit in the dreaded rear-facing seat. To this day, the mere thought of simply looking backwards in a vehicle induces motion sickness.
Leigh Anne was the youngest in her family, so with all her siblings grown, we had the entire van to ourselves to relax, share magazines, and just be. She relaxed in the spacious back couch/bench while I commandeered one of the middle captain’s chairs.
Up front were her mom and dad - Lois and Jack. I suppose you could find two nicer people if you tried hard enough, but honestly, it would be a challenge. They were always friendly, but in my humble 15-year-old opinion, what I really liked best about Jack and Lois was that they didn’t “hover.” They were seasoned parents who had been through enough teenagers to know that what your own teen and their friends really wanted was the ability to be themselves. Basically what I’m trying to say is that they would talk to us, and then let us enjoy our own conversations and giggles alone.
It was a four-hour trip, so at a certain point, as hard as it is to believe, Leigh Anne and I ran out of things to say. I’m sure by that time, we’d already debriefed one another on the latest weekend social happenings, pondered our recent cheerleading camp performances, and discussed the dreaded rigors of upcoming two-a-day volleyball practices.
As I looked toward the front of the van to the stretch of highway and enjoyed the silence, I heard a familiar Anne Murray song on the radio.
Can I have this dance, for the rest of my life, would you be my partner, every night? the Canadian singer crooned.
I can’t tell you who reached out first, but silently, slowly, Leigh Anne’s parents were holding hands as the song played. I can still see them share a sideways smile as Jack drove on and the melody continued.
I was blessed enough to have two loving parents with a strong marriage, and yet, this moment between Jack and Lois struck me as something special. I knew couples who went steady in high school enjoyed a slow song at a dance, but it really never occurred to me that love songs were meant for couples of all ages.
Even though I was years away from meeting the love of my life, I remember hoping that one day I would be lucky enough to find someone to share the same simple gesture of togetherness over a love song. As Jack and Lois’ anniversary rolled around earlier this spring, it warmed my heart to see their dance has continued on for 65 years, and I am grateful for that memory and image of love.
Years later, I can’t say the “someone” I found has taken me on a trip in a conversion van, or that we listen to a lot of love songs together.
But, what I can say is just like Jack and Lois, our dance continues.
And when we do hear the music, we still reach for the other’s hand.
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Photo Credit: Heimerman Photography