First Dance

I waited for a few minutes at the back, the smells and sounds so familiar, so similar to my own first dance. I can remember it clearly.

March 21, 2016 | | Departments

It was a slick winter night just before 10 p.m. as I drove east on Hockley Road and took the fork right onto 5 Sideroad. Icy rain pelted down as a lineup of cars snaked into the parking lot of the cavernous agricultural centre. We pulled up our hoods and did the slip and slide as we made our way inside, the music pounding, awaiting our arrival.

I felt nervous walking into the dance, but not for the same reason I had in the past. This dance, this light show and music mayhem wasn’t for us, the adults. Instead, we trundled into the lobby, ready to pick up our kids.

When did this happen? Laughing quietly to myself, I thought, I’m supposed to be the one heading out to parties and dances. Parents exchanged smiles and hugs, while scanning the throngs of wild animals that wouldn’t give up the dance floor. Eventually sweaty bodies began to emerge in little packs. I could tell some parents were slipping into sleepytime before the clock hit 10 and had headed out reluctantly, pulling puffy coats over their PJs. Oh, how time had changed us.

I waited for a few minutes at the back, the smells and sounds so familiar, so similar to my own first dance. I can remember it clearly. It was held in an arena in Peel Village, a big open space just like this one. I had already moved north to the hills to East Gary, but headed back for a sleepover and to attend the dance. It was summer; we were between grades 6 and 7. We went a little overboard with turquoise-blue eyeliner, coloured lip gloss, hairspray. I could tell you the name of the boy I danced with, but I won’t – our dance is a secret sweet moment locked in my memory forever. I remember he felt different than me. I could feel his bones and the beginning of muscles, longer arms and longer torso. So this is what boy feels like, smells like, I thought.

Fast-forward and here I was again, girls again with glossy lips and eyeliner (though happily with less hairspray) and boys in buttoned-down shirts and understated, on-trend T-shirts. I nervously scanned the crowds coming out of the throbbing ag centre, which is more often host to horse shows, rodeos and fall fairs. Then I saw my boy, his slim frame heading to the door, his buddies in pursuit. They were talking, laughing, the younger brother of one friend still jumping with excitement, hair stuck to his forehead. My nerves slipped away – my son and his friends were in my care again. A few girls flitted by them. “Oops, sorryyy, byeee.” They flipped their long, sweet silk hair and twinkled shy smiles before collapsing into shared euphoria like stars in the night.

Everything smelled the same and felt the same. The happy tension, the smell of boy, the smell of girl, of smoke machine, parents smoking discreetly outside the door. Ah, heaven.

As for Adrian, this was not his first dance. It was his third, but my first time picking him up afterward. The event was hosted by Party Rockers, a fantastic group that holds fundraising dances every month for local sports clubs. Adrian and his friends piled into the car, hot, sweaty, slipping on the ice. I got to listen to their excited post-dance analysis. “It was so loud!” they said in overly loud voices, their ears ringing. “Did you see Madison? Does she text you?” “Did you see how tall Aidan is?” “Did you like the DJ?” “I had so much fun. I’m definitely going next time. Are you coming?” “I’m definitely going. We should definitely go.”

I felt nervous walking into the dance, but not for the same reason I had in the past. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

I felt nervous walking into the dance, but not for the same reason I had in the past. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

I remember my dad picking me up from a dance or two in Orangeville. As my ears rang from the loud music at ODSS, he drove slowly across Townline, the mist curling up over the edges of the swampy woods and onto the road. I can laugh about it now, but as he tuned in CHFI for the deadly “Lovers and Other Strangers,” and drove even more slowly, I wanted to slither under the seat and die from teenage embarrassment. I was convinced my pounding chest would give my teen heart away. I’m sure a smile played on his lips as we drove through the night.

What becomes of these moments? They are stored in tiny time capsules in each of our brains. Little treasures we draw upon when we need a thrill or a happy place to go, or when we see the mist curling over the road in just such a way that takes us right back.

First dances, barn dances, field parties, high school dances and prom, followed by first kisses and passion. They join with the joy and anxiety of a first dance at your wedding, or swinging your child in spirals from your arms, allowed to stay up late and party with adults, little dress shoes circling the air. Flip over your dance card and there are the unwritten dances you wish you could have had, the times when you sat on the sidelines looking at the floor, pretending to nurse a long-ago drained drink.

But then, there you are before you know it, picking up your own preteen on an icy winter night. You are the driver, and now he is the one with heart beating secret rhythms in his chest.

Get Your Ride On for Summer Solstice!

Several complementary kids’ races are part of North America’s largest 24-Hour Mountain Bike Festival and Relay Event at Albion Hills Conservation Area, June 25 and 26. The festival features team races and overnight camping. Races have various formats – for the most competitive or those who just want to have fun, including mudding and the Freezie chug fest!

Storm Seekers, Chasers & Weather Geeks

Calling all storm chasers! Dufferin County is in a cradle for severe weather, with a long history of tornadoes, floods, high winds and closed roads. Come hear renowned storm chaser and Weather Network commentator Mark Robinson tell stories of our wild weather, supported by video footage, historical documents and photographs. It all takes place on Saturday, April 16 at 2pm at Dufferin County Museum & Archives. Register by phone 1-877-941-7787 or [email protected]

The incrEDIBLE Food Project

Are your kids interested in food? In this program kids 8–12 will design, develop and market a local food product while gaining skills in the kitchen. It runs Thursdays from May 26 to June 16, 4–6pm at the Palgrave United Community Kitchen, and is $60 for the four-week session.

Safety and Babysitting Courses

Give kids the confidence and tools to stay safe. The Home Alone Safety and Red Cross Babysitting courses teach Internet safety, basic first aid, caregiving skills, healthy snacks, promoting yourself as a babysitter and more. Both are held on Friday, May 13 from 9am–5pm at the Mayfield Recreation Complex, Caledon, and cost $65 and $85 respectively. For more info call the Town of Caledon, 905-584-2272.

Family Art + Stories

Inspire lifelong learning with monthly stories and art projects while spending quality time with your kids. The program runs the first Saturday of the month (except July), from April through August, 2–4pm at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum 
& Archives (PAMA) in downtown Brampton. For admission and other info, visit

Party Rockers

Rock out in a safe atmosphere! All Party Rocker dances are chaperoned by 10–25 parents from our own community, representing local youth sports or charitable groups using the dance to raise money for their organizations. Depending on the dance, youth age 7–13 or 10–13 are welcome (high school kids are not). The monthly dances run 7–10pm at Orangeville Agricultural Centre on 5 Sideroad Mono. There are rules to keep it clean and safe for young partygoers, but expect sweaty kids at pickup! See

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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