Don’t be a chicken, go to the dance

Published 10:00 am Saturday, August 20, 2022

By Jan Miller Penton

The band’s tunes carried across the beach and the lake to nearby neighborhoods as my friend, Debbie, and I sat in our folding chairs enjoying the music. Friends and neighbors greeted one other with hearty hellos and warm hugs. It was such a fun, summer evening relaxing to the music of The Eagles, The Beatles, and everything in between. I didn’t see my text until later, but my friends, Cathy and James, were on their back porch listening and requested “Sweet Home Alabama”, which the band played as if on cue.

The music from my youth made me think of a summer in those tween years. You know those awkward years when childhood is fading fast, but the next phase seems so scary. Growing up always seems to bring with it a little uncertainty and sometimes a lot! I was skinny, but I actually did have skin covering my knotty knees that year. At one point I really thought they would never grow skin because I seemed to continually be sliding into base or falling off a bike.

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My tomboy ways finally slowed enough for the scabs to heal up. Real skin…who knew? But I certainly felt gangly and awkward especially when those creatures that I used to spend my days running and playing with became attractive. I didn’t even know how it had happened, but something was different this summer.

It had been a good week at 4-H Camp. The facilities were a little rustic, but the pool and canoeing more than made up for anything lacking in our cabin. My fellow campers and I were probably a little melodramatic about the few spiders we found, but we were after all young girls. We were all making new friends and slowly gaining a little confidence in our rapidly changing bodies.

The camp counselors had worked hard planning a dance for the evening before we all returned to our homes. I would miss the girls I had met, but was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. But first I would have to navigate through those murky waters of my first dance. All the older girls seemed excited so I pretended to be excited as well. In reality, I got sweaty palms just thinking about it! And what boy wanted to dance with a girl with sweaty palms? What if my dance partner had sweaty palms? Super Yuck!!

The last day quickly drew to a close, and we all enjoyed our hot dog supper. It was only an hour or two before the dance. I wondered if the queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach was from the hot dogs or the upcoming dance? Thoughts of bowing out and staying at the cabin floated through my head, but I knew deep down I really wanted to go.

After a precarious start the dance turned out to be a lot of fun. As I skipped back to the cabin with my girlfriends I was so glad that I hadn’t chickened out.