Welcome back long-time Mysteristas friend Elle Byron with the latest in her Cajun Country mysteries combining family, holidays and murder, A Cajun Christmas Killing!
DANCING AT WEDDINGS
My mother is Italian and my dad was Jewish. This ethnic combination resulted in spending a lot of my childhood at family functions. Barely a month went by when someone wasn’t celebrating something – anniversaries, birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, bar mitzvahs, and especially weddings. The Italian side was especially party-prolific, since two cousins by marriage ran the Astoria Manor catering hall in Queens.
Every big bash revolved around a large dance floor filled with adults dancing. And as a kid, I remember thinking – these old people look ridiculous. There was nothing more embarrassing than watching a sea of seniors do some current dance move like the Hustle or the Bump. (Note: said seniors were probably fifteen or twenty years younger than I am now.)
This attitude lingered through my twenties. I worked for Martha Stewart when she was launching her catering company (sidebar: you’ll find pix of me in the first edition of Entertaining), and she did a lot of weddings back then. Even though those crowds were WASP-ier and more reserved than my ethnic clans, I had the same judgy reaction. Dancing was for the young, not the old. Yeah, friends got married and I danced at their weddings, but I resented the elders tying up valuable space on the dance floor.
Now, you need to know that I love dancing. LOVE it. When I was nine, my ballet teacher told my mother I had “great potential.” Sadly, I also had a short attention span and so I quit not long after this and never went en pointe, something I’ll regret to my dying day. While I never became a prima ballerina, I pretty much spent every weekend of my twenties at one New York club or another. But as I got older and my clubbing faded, so did my dance opportunities. They basically disappeared. Then I became a mom. During our daughter’s thirteenth year, we got invited to a handful of her friends’ bat mitzvahs. And guess who totally embarrassed her teenager by burning up the dance floor? That’s right – me.
Those events left me with a hunger to bust a move on a more regular basis. When a new gym opened in my neighborhood, there was a format called Dance it Out on the schedule. The copy said the classes offered a variety of dance styles within a fifty minute session. I tried one class and was hooked. I love the format so much that it inspired an exercise studio called DanceBod in A Cajun Christmas Killing, my new Cajun Country Mystery. And I’ve learned a lot of new steps that I can’t wait to try out at a party. Because there will be future weddings, as well as anniversary parties and other celebrations. And I get the pull of that party dance floor now. So, to all my older relatives who got an eye roll from me at family functions, I apologize. I hope you feel vindicated knowing umpteen years later, I have become you and will be embarrassing future generations of children at family events each time I Whip, Nae Nae, or Drop it Low.
Ellen Byron’s novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, was a Library Journal Debut Mystery of the Month, and nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Book two in the series, Body on the Bayou, was recently released to enthusiastic reviews. TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and many network pilots; she’s written over 200 national magazine articles; her published plays include the award-winning Graceland.