Dancing with the Queen of Disco
I moved in with my aunt and uncle when I was 15 to escape an abusive step-father that enjoyed terrorizing his family. Within a few weeks, I went from a scared, walking-on-egg-shells, insecure life, to locked in a juvenile detention cell for my own protection, to a safe, secure, quiet life.
My aunt and uncle worked hard to provide for us and make sure we didn’t want for anything we truly needed. They didn’t splurge or live the high life, but they made sure we got to be kids without worrying about the basics, like shelter, food, and clothes. We even had a Nintendo to play Circus Atari, Breakout, and Asteroids.
After I turned 16 and got my drivers license, my aunt always sent me to run errands, like driving a few miles down country roads, from Herbst to Swayzee, to pick up a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. I loved driving. It made me feel like a grown up.
One hot summer night, my aunt invited some friends from work over for a party. I don’t recall the reason for the celebration, a promotion at work perhaps.
I invited my best friend over so we could get in on the fun. We listened to 45s in my room as we dreamed about our future and talked about cute boys at school. Then we mingled among the crowd and ate some finger food that my aunt made, including her famous fruit pizza, which was pineapples, strawberries, bananas, and blueberries with cream cheese on a sugar cookie base. It was so delicious.
She had some sparkling grape drink set out for us, but they drank the real thing, plus their Falstaff beer. My aunt and uncle loved beer. I took a sip and spit it out. To this day I can’t stand the taste of beer unless it’s a flavored wine cooler.
I rarely witnessed my aunt and uncle smiling and laughing as much as they did at this party. It made my heart happy to see them having fun.
My aunt called me over to where she stood with a group of her work friends. She gave me $20 and told me to go to the record store and get an album, “Something we can dance to,” she said.
I was over-the-moon excited, not only that my aunt trusted me to drive all the way into Marion to the record store, but to pick out the perfect album that would liven up the party.
In gym class all the previous week, the PE teacher had us doing line dances and disco moves. It was embarrassing to have to partner up with the guys, but it was also secretly fun.
I had the disco dance moves from school in mind when I went to the record store.
A Donna Summer album cover instantly stood out to me. She looked like the life of the party. I didn’t waste any time. I purchased the album and headed straight home.
I couldn’t wait to put the record on and see everyone break out into disco moves like we learned in school.
When I got home and showed the album to my aunt, she frowned and said, “What’s this?” I think she was expecting some doo-wop album from her time. But, this was from my time and she sent me to the music store, so it’s what I played, like a young DJ, ready to get the party hopping.
As I lowered the needle onto the record, I thought, just wait, you will see.
To my dismay, no one broke out into Saturday Night Fever disco moves. But, the air changed, became charged with energy. The crowd started to sway, drinks in hand, moving slow, shy at first.
As the album played on, we got lost in the music — sang, chatted, danced the night away. It was 3 a.m. before we knew it.
The Queen of Disco reigned that day and lives on as one of the highlights in my childhood music memory.