My mother-in-law sent my daughters a massive collection of Neil Diamond records to go with our old record player, and I’ve now heard enough of his music to change my name to Sweet Caroline. From sunup to sundown, for days and days, it’s been Neil Diamond end to end.
Neil Diamond fashion shows. Neil Diamond with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Neil Diamond played at low rpms so he gains a husky baritone, and at high rpms so he sounds like a mouse on cocaine.
Neil Diamond… Neil Diamond… Neil Diamond… “Forever Blue Jeans,” and “America,” and “Cherry Cherry.”
For me and my family, Neil Diamond is now my official soundtrack to the 2020 pandemic. I wasn’t a fan before, but I didn’t hate him either. It was more of a shrugging acceptance that Neil Diamond was a singer from before my time, who was recognizable, and may or may not still be alive. I suppose he fell into a place between hate and love, similar to how many people feel about the band Smash Mouth.
However, I must admit, on the bright side, thanks to the new additions to our record collection, we have had an incredible amount of spontaneous Neil Diamond dance parties.
Here’s how it plays out. I will go downstairs in the middle of the day because I work from home now. Usually for a snack, or to just get a break from hunching over my computer in our upstairs closet. (Yes, I work in a closet, because sadly it’s the only “room” available in my house.)
My daughters will be listening to Neil Diamond. One will grab my right hand, and the other will grab my left. They will pull me into this open space in the living room, and suddenly, it’s on.
Listen, none of us are good dancers. Not in the slightest. My six-year-old shakes her little hips and shoulders in these adorable jerking motions, one sock on, one off. If she were an adult, and a doctor saw her dance, he’d probably assume she was having a stroke, but since she’s six and sporting a gap-toothed grin, her dance moves just melt your heart. And my 11-year-old, her moves look a lot like the dance scene in Pulp Fiction. She does the swim, and the sprinkler, and the Batusi. Not that I have any better moves. I might as well be a late-thirtysomething robot doing disco moves in pants he bought at Costco.
But hey, no one is watching, so we cut loose, and at the end of each song, we have a “big finale” where I lift one of the girls over my head, and they go all stiff, similar to the lake scene in Dirty Dancing.
It’s not about good dancing, because no one can see but us, and we don’t care what we look like. It’s about making the best of this long stretch of socially-distanced days, when the world seems to have gone to hell. In the context of our pandemic lifestyle, these living room dance parties are pretty exciting.
Sometimes we turn down the lights and get flashlights. Sometimes the girls get stuffed animals for dance partners. Even our dog has gotten involved.
And no, we don’t ALWAYS dance to Neil Diamond. Sometimes we dance to Journey, and my six-year-old takes center stage with a wicked air guitar solo during “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Or we dance to “What Does The Fox Say,” a song I never thought about dancing to, but it turns out it’s possible. Believe me.
These spontaneous dance parties with my daughters have become some of the fondest memories I have of 2020 thus far. In a year marred by dark clouds on every horizon, these have been the brightest spots.
Yes, 2020 has been hard. Yes, most people are fearful, and on edge, worried about family members’ health, while also worrying about keeping their jobs. We’ve been stuck in our houses, struggling to make sense of the world in the middle of a pandemic.
But even with all this nastiness in the world, my kids are still trying to make the best of it. They are still looking for something creative and fun to do, and they are dragging me in on it. And no matter how stressed I am — no matter how frustrated and tired and worried I get — I cannot seem to say “no” to one of my girls’ pandemic dance parties. And though they only last a song or two, I always feel better afterward. Frankly, right now, anything that makes you feel a little better is totally a win.
So, my friends, put on some music. Push the sofa and chairs into the corners. Turn down the lights, and get the flashlights. Put on some tunes, and cut loose, because right now you need a dance party in your life. Even if it’s to a soundtrack of Neil Diamond.