It is an early morning meeting for me today and so I've decided to post a story I wrote in Dec 2003 that was published in a newspaper in Vancouver. It came to mind as I read some of the comments at the end of The Accordion Hours.
We all have favourite music memories. Those wispy threads of the past that waft through our minds when we hear a piano note struck, just so, a violin string plucked in plaintive calling out to our memory to arise and take us back.
The events in this story happened several months after Conrad, the abuser no longer in my life, was arrested. I had joined a church choir and we would sometimes go to sing at a senior's home in the neighbourhood. This story was written after one such Sunday session.
Shall We Dance?
Yesterday I went to a senior's lodge with a group of friends from church to sing. We walked into the cafeteria where about 20 wizened and weathered faces congregated to meet their Sunday visitors. Some lolled in their wheelchairs while others pushed their walkers up to a table and carefully maneuvered themselves into a chair.
Thin and wispy hair, graying, white, balding and freckled, their heads bobbed against their chests as they kept time to the music or simply nodded off to sleep. We had purposefully chosen a few old time favourites, Amazing Grace being one of them. At the end, our pianist moved into Jesus Loves Me. Suddenly, eyes opened, smiles beamed and cracked and aging voices sang along. The sound was heavenly, the room charged with that special energy that arises when grace descends and we are touched by the Divine.
As the song ended, Randy, who was playing the piano, gracefully moved into secular favourites. Big band tunes, 'elevator music', Perry Como classics. At the back of the hall sat a woman with her dyed brown hair carefully coiffed into a bun held together by a big velvet bow. Her eyes were lined with black that had smudged at the corners and her lipstick was slightly crooked but her smile erased all signs of her trembling make-up application as she sat in her flowing blue and green chiffon gown, her feet tapping eagerly to the music.
I walked over, sat down and introduced myself. She told me that she had once been a stage performer. A singer extraordinaire but she had lost her larynx to cancer long ago.
“Ah,” I teased her. “That's why you have such a sexy voice now. It sounds like a life well lived both on and off stage.”
She smiled coquettishly. “But I still love to dance,” she whispered with her throaty purr.
"Would you care to dance with me,” I asked?
“Oh no”, she demurred, while looking at me from beneath her lowered eye lashes.
I persisted. I could tell she really wanted to dance.
Soon, she was on her feet, twirling about the room, leaving me behind in a waft of chiffon and sweetly cloying perfume. She spun and bowed, dipped, and curtsied, a vision of graceful arms and smiling face as she held her dress outstretched in one hand, her body twirling in delight, in love with the dance.
She was beautiful.
At another table a woman with a pinched in face and pursed lips sat primly in her off white sweater set and plaid skirt. As the dancing woman waltzed by, the woman hissed, "You look silly. You're embarrassing yourself."
The dancing woman never missed a beat. "No I'm not," she smiled. "I'm having fun." And she spun away.
The prim little lady harrumphed her passing and went back to staring into her empty teacup. I offered to get her some tea and when I brought it back she complained it was too full. “Pour out half”, she admonished me.
I took it away and brought it back to her, half empty.
Life is in our perceptions. For that twirling dancer, life was joyful and carefree a moment by moment adventure for which she always came prepared. She had waltzed into that hall dressed to dance and enjoy the simple music of a Sunday afternoon.
She danced the afternoon away and as we left she held my hand and thanked me for telling her she had a sexy voice. "I'm 86," she said, "I haven't been told I'm sexy in a very long time." And she kissed me gently on the cheek before gracefully gliding from the room, a queen in her own right, one hand gracefully carving a wave in the air as she bid her admirers adieu.
The old lady in her sweater set continued to sit at her table, staring into her once again empty tea cup. The afternoon had passed and nothing had changed in her life. She waited, as I assume she waits everyday, for something to happen, something to change that would give meaning to her day.
Perhaps one day she'll rise to her feet and dance. Perhaps not.
And so she waits.
Me, I'm planning on dancing my life away and singing my song of freedom with all my heart and soul. My life depends upon it.
May your day be filled with dancing.