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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Grandma Taps

Updated: May 25, 2022

My mom tap-danced for us this Christmas. It was the sweetest surprise. And totally unexpected.

We wondered what was up. Gifts being opened, and usually Mom is full attention, wanting to gage each reaction. But this year distracted. Bustling about, her own gifts untouched. “What is she doing?” I ask my sister, who shakes her head, incredulous grin. “Something theatrical?” Her statement a question. And I catch the eye of my daughter-in-law. This isn’t our normal.

Next thing we know grandsons are cutting a path through the living room, cluttered still with gift wrap and tissue. Collegiate cousins, huddled in clusters of conversation, make way for—a stage?—wooden platform, placed before the fireplace hearth. A bit of confusion, and Where is Grandma?

She makes her appearance. In Costume. Long wool coat, barely revealing a Christmas tree skirt, nylon stockings. She takes the stage, and begins.

A story.

When I was a girl, I dreamed of learning to tap. She tells of a childhood friend who took lessons. Tap and gymnastics. And I wanted so badly to do it, too. Step-heel, heel-step. Mom in her stockings. I’d shuffle around my house like this.

Mom’s mom—our southern Grandma—not one for nonsense. “That is NOT how you tap.” But not one, either, for making a daughter’s dreams come true.

And yet. Mom watched on TV. Lawrence Welk, and—most of you probably don’t know who he is. But she remembers. The dancers. Tap-and-slide, tap-a-tap. All my life, I’ve loved it, and wished…

And then. Mom reaches around to the hearth behind her, pulls out a box. I was at a thrift store, a few months back. The kids are nodding, frequent recipients of Grandma’s second-hand finds. But that particular day she found something. Unexpected. A pair of black shoes. She turned them over. Caught her breath. Could it be?


Mom takes out the shoes, like new, perfect fit.

It’s like God put them there, just for me.

The room is silent. All eyes on Grandma. And I tell her later, how I’m a sap for a well-told story, and she told it SO well.

Tap. Tap.

She’s got them on now. Tap-a-tap rhythm on a make-shift stage. I brought them home that day. Waited until Grandpa was out in his shop. Tried them out on the hardwood floor. Step-heel, heel-step.

By now I’m a puddle. Snuffling back tears. Dad, too, I think, sitting behind me. Seventy-five years she’s waited. For this.

But wait. There’s more. Unexpected. A little something to lighten the mood. Grandma takes off her coat, revealing… A LIGHT-UP SWEATER. Opens computer, starts up the music. Like a giddy girl on Christmas morning. Seventy-five, and never younger.

Grandma TAPS.

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