How to Do the Twist
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day after she took us to see A Hole in the Head, Mother
went crazy. Still, she was a swell dancer.
Jamie Callan M.F.A. '91
Illustrations by Amy Butler
couldn't cope with reality, but she sure knew how to dance. My mother
had a twist dress. It was black and had rows and rows of silk fringe
all the way from her bosom to her knees. She and my brother, Johnny,
would do the twist in our Connecticut kitchen on weekday afternoons.
They would talk about Chubby Checker with great authority. I was
8, and he was 12. He had a paper route and a job shoveling snow
in the winter, and he saved up for a record player that could run
at three different speeds 33«, 45 and 78 rpms. When no one was around,
I snuck into his room and played my grandfather's Cab Calloway 78s.
I didn't know how to twist. Everyone said it was just like crushing
out a cigarette. It was that easy. But I didn't smoke, so I didn't
think I would ever be able to learn.
the spring of 1962 my mother had a nervous breakdown. It happened
the night after she took us to the drive-in to see Frank Sinatra
in A Hole in the Head. Mother didn't like the movie. The next day
she was supposed to take me and my brother to the beach, but instead
she went crazy. We loaded into the car and when she backed out of
the driveway, she accidentally ran over her Siamese cat. Then she
zoomed up Ledge Lane running down every other mailbox. We -- and
the car -- ended up in a pond near Belltown Road.
ambulance came and took us all to the hospital. My mother and brother
were unconscious, so the paramedics had to ask me all the questions.
I lay on the emergency room table and stared up at the huge light
above me. It was as big as the sun. I pretended I was at the beach.
I pretended that we'd never run over my mother's cat, that we were
safe on the sand, the ocean breathing long sighs into our ears.
there was light shining directly in my eyes and a voice shouting,
"Andrea, wake up. Are you awake?"