A Dance with Words


When I lived with my parents, dinner was one of my favourite times of the day. Not because my mother is an excellent cook - although there is that - but because dinner was the time where we all sat down together, ate and talked. And it was the talking especially that made this time of day extra special. Because sooner or later a debate would start.

My parents taught both my sister and I the debate game and to this day, it remains one of our favorite sports. We can enter into a spirited debate about pretty much anything and frequently do, much to the amusement - and occasional frustration - of other people in the room. Someone will say something and before you know it, we're locked in a lively game of Pass the Word. Because this isn't just about exchanging opinions, it is also about passing the metaphorical talking stick back and forth so quickly that it becomes a bit of a blur. We jump into the conversation when someone else is talking because we learned - at our father’s knee in particular - that if you don't jump in, you'll never get a word in edgewise.

We learned to be quick in making our point because if you weren't, someone else would take the floor. And we learned to be quick because if you weren't, someone - usually my dad - would pointedly ask if we were playing golf or tennis. In the debate game, there was no greater crime than hogging the floor. A cooperative, collaborative effort was not just the name of the game, but highly prized and has created what The Boy once likened to a game of intergenerational volleyball with words. It's fast and furious, each person having a brief opportunity to say something and then the baton is passed to someone else. Usually, it looks as if they are jumping in and talking over you, taking the floor forcibly, but it's not really like that at all. Yes, someone starts talking, but the person who was talking first lets go the floor and passes it on, willingly giving over the space.

I’ve been thinking of this game in sports metaphors, but the more I thought, the more I realized that it's not exactly like that. This giving and letting go and collaborative weaving back and forth is not exactly a game. It's a dance. Look at a pair of dancers doing the quickstep or the jive and imagine that in words. That's what dinner was like at home.

I'm lucky that I've found friends who play with the same delight as we do. And I'm very lucky that I found a partner who does, as well. The Boy and I frequently play the debate game for no other reason than fun. He's even been known to pick a position just because he knows it gets me going. Not too long ago, we spent several late hours debating a particular issue. It was a wide-ranging and energetic (and occasionally a bit loud) exchange of words and by the time we went to bed, we still weren't done. Despite being in a location and state of undress that normally inspires a different kind of communication, we kept going. By the time we finally ran out of steam, it was 3 AM, he had called my point unnecessarily reductionist and I had called his intellectually lazy. If I were asked to pick favourite moments in our relationship, that one would be high on the list.

I may not be able to dance like they do on Dancing with the Stars, but thanks to my parents teaching me since I was a child, I can dance in another way. Every time The Boy and I debate this, that or the other thing, we trip the light fantastic.


Carrie Beth said…
I don't know if you realize it or not, but your blog was written very much like a dance, I felt the sway back and forth in the rhythm of your words. You've managed to create with words a beautiful picture of an alternative way to "dance with a parner" when your body decides to sit on the sidelines. I enjoyed every word and it reminds me of just how many things we learn to appreciate and pay attention to when we lose so many of our other abilities from chronic illness and disability....things that others take for granted or fail to appreciate at all. :)
AlisonH said…
Love it. Well danced. And Carrie's right: the rhythm went straight into your written words, too, in that post. Great fun!

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