Dancing to the Music

Amanda Joseph-Anderson - Jenkins, Kentucky
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, August 24, 2012
Amanda Joseph-Anderson

When times were tough in Amanda Joseph-Anderson’s home growing up, her mother would pull out her favorite records to play on the stereo. Dancing together, daughter and mother built a bond of happiness that tempered the harsh realities of their lives.

Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, love
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A multitude of ornate squares decorated a hunter-green carpeted floor. The Beatles and a few other notable artists were strung out in no particular order. I studied the album art, fascinated by the pictures and stories they told. I can recall creating my own dialogue for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to better understand the meaning and purpose behind such flamboyant attire. What a necessary mess my mother and I had made.

This cyclical game we had played many times before. We would pull out all of my mother’s old vinyl and designate a playlist. I picked mostly by the album’s pictures, my mother by an artist’s credibility and sound. I was a young child at the time; I didn’t understand the dynamics of music.

The excitement and anticipation would build as the automatic arm positioned itself above a disk of splendor. The silver Pioneer would belt out sounds from the heavens. We then interlocked hands and twirled. Life would be forgotten in this world of ours. Our feet didn’t stop until we paid homage to each tune. At no other time in my life can I remember such bliss and happiness.

I would always catch my mother turning the music up louder when she wanted to sing, in order to drown out her own voice. Nevertheless, I heard it, and it was beautiful.

She created beauty with such ease, just like those moments.

We would fade into our world for several hours. We ignored all the outside distractions. Our philosophy encouraged others to join us, or leave us alone. We were usually left alone. We danced like tribesmen waiting for the rain.

It took me years to realize the ulterior motives behind our musical endeavors. Of course my mother was very interactive with me when I was young. I have many fond memories of studying, playing games, and talking about fantasy worlds of dragons and fairies with her. But listening to music seemed to be her choice of play.

When we listened to music, I caught my mother in pure nostalgia. As we danced she would share fond moments of her life. It would almost bring her to tears. Reminiscing was always difficult for her because she had come from a happier place.

We always struggled as a family. My father was a verbally abusive alcoholic who favored breaking our spirits every time he drank. This was the “outside world” and the “distractions” that we would drown out with music.

My mother tried to instill in me the same happiness that she had been so accustomed to in her earlier years. She protected me and found a means of escape from the ugliness of our reality. And with the sounds of her music, she preserved my psychological well-being as well.

I realize now that our hours playing records and dancing together were more than just playtime—they bonded us and made us stronger than ever. And in so doing, I believe my mother made our love never ending, just like the infinite circle of an old LP.

Amanda Joseph-Anderson is an elementary school teacher in Jenkins, Kentucky, where she lives with her mother, husband, and daughter. After becoming a mother herself, Ms. Joseph-Anderson feels blessed to have such a wonderful mother as a role model for raising her own little girl.

Produced for This I Believe by John Gregory