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To See Us Dance

If there was a way to go back in time, so many of us have so many things we'd choose to do over, or do better, or do again. We've all made some not-so-great choices over the years - some with more dire consequences than others, and of course, everything is relative. No one alive truly lives with no regrets - and if they say they do they're either lying or on a long swim in the deep river of denial. It's okay to have regrets - but we can't dwell on them. We can't let those regrets weigh us down - but we can learn from them. Even if that exact opportunity doesn't come around again - there's usually a lesson we can take away and apply to something else.

One of the things I DO dwell on, may not seem like much to some, but in my heart of hearts and in the belly of my soul I just know this would have made a difference in the lives of my family. Myself, my late husband, my kids - we all would have had that moment to hold on to. I have a version of it, but my kids don't - and that's a weight I'll never throw off and one I can never get a second chance on.

And that's to see us dance. Not silly dance with the kids - we did that. Not goofy dance a little tipsy at a party - we did that too. I mean dance...together...slowly. The kind of dance where the world just falls away and it's just the two of you - the music somewhere in the background as the sound of your hearts fall in step, your breath synced in rhythm, and the energy flowing between you is palpable.

When a kid sees their parents in that kind of connection- whether at a family function or a fundraiser, or a stolen moment at home - it triggers a joy almost unexplainable. Not only does it deliver a sure shot of hope that between two unrelated people love can be real, but it can make a lot of the mediocre or forgettable moments fade into the background. It's an "a-ha" moment that gives a child a framework of reference of how they came to be - of why. And that kind of memory goes a long, long way.

Richard and I used to dance a lot more before we had children, like many couples. He wasn't much of a dancer by nature, and by the time I had met him - he had pretty much packed up his white poly suit and vest (he came of age in the late seventies and he was a Brooklyn boy) and resigned himself to the sidelines. We danced a few times for fun while at a bar with live music, or at a concert, and even once in a while at home. From the time we started dating, the closer we became, the closer we danced.

In the months preceding our wedding, we took dance classes - we wanted to be sure we could do more than what our repertoire together consisted of - the mad embrace of two people falling in love, the eight step disco number we concocted a la Saturday Night Fever (remember the white suit?), or something resembling a junior high parochial school dance keeping each other at arms length, while counting and coordinating the steps.

Richard had never had formal dance training, nor was he taught by his parents (at least that's what he told me). He was a pretty coordinated guy - in his youth he was pretty athletic and went to college on a football scholarship - and he was very into martial arts - so there is some grace and discipline in both of those things one can call upon for dance. Though rhythm...and keeping it for more than that 8 count number - was a bit of a challenge for him. Not to mention his confidence in the former did not translate to the latter.

I had had years of dance training, as many girls do, and was pretty decent at it. My parents taught me the basics of social dancing - maybe that's more of a father-daughter thing than a mother-son thing in general - but I also remember watching my parents dance together and wanting to learn. I'd like to think at some point in Richard's younger days he was able to witness his parents doing the same, but that would have all been way before my time.

When people come together to dance - if it's not the slow jam that you can get away with, or something highly choreographed, the stronger dancer will naturally take the lead. Someone has to...its the way dance works. Some dance couples can move that lead back and forth, picking up the cues from the other, seamlessly transitioning to make it all seem like it had been done a million times before - but they are the exception to the rule. It requires a ton of confidence and trust. And unfortunately, we were a bit short on both.

The first few classes went ridiculously poorly. The teacher was a traditionalist and adamant that Richard have the lead. I appreciated it and agreed to it aloud, but my unconscious self wasn't onboard. We literally stepped on each other's toes, and bumped heads, and missed each other a few times over. I may have been dropped from a dip once. We laughed about it every time. This is why we were together. The teacher....not so laughy.

The solution, inevitably, was for me to close my eyes and keep them shut. If I opened them, the teacher threatened to blindfold me. I had no choice but to trust and follow. Looking back, it's likely an exercise every couple should attempt and flip it back and forth. It definitely builds a deeper connection between partners, and once you get the hang of it, there is a sexiness to it as well - so extra bonus!

For me, this was a huge adjustment. And it was quite apparent in those first few go rounds. But eventually, I let go. I let my body listen. It also helped when Richard stopped giving me verbal cues - which he thought would help - but that split second of my brain knowing what was coming up was enough to throw me off if that's not what I wanted to do naturally.

I had to give in. I had to trust. And it worked.

We practiced. He practiced on his own. And as we went from social event to social event we would take spins on the dance floor - and even though I had to close my eyes to do it, it became more and more effortless. At one wedding, the shoes I had on weren't agreeing with me, and I decided to take a break, and I watched Richard offer his hand to quite a few other women who came to the event alone (I knew them all) and seeing him move so gracefully and confidently (remember, when we danced together I couldn't watch) it gave me a whole different perspective on the man I thought i knew everything about. I didn't get jealous - I could see where someone might - watching their partner twirl around the room with someone else, smiling and laughing - but that's just not me. Never for a second did I doubt he'd come home to me. I was glad he could do it and glad he would do it. At one point, it was almost a relief. It was like he was packing the equivalent of all my years of dancing into one to catch up. Or maybe he just really liked it. It sure seemed like he did. And who doesn't love to see their partner happy?

I remember the last time we danced. The kids were little and very much asleep. Richard put on a CD of our songs - and we moved from one into the other, the last one being Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of "How Deep Is The Ocean?". We were so frazzled from the day - from our every day - as parents of two very curious littles and all of their activities, and running a business, and socializing and schmoozing, and still navigating our new lives in a somewhat new geographical place that was pretty new to everyone in it - it was a rare moment that we weren't in tag team mode so the other could get some rest.

Richard had lost a lot of weight, which allowed our bodies to move together differently in the dance. I had met him as a bigger guy and fell in love with him as a bigger guy, and we'd often joke about how his belly fit under my breasts - so it worked out. We hadn't danced in a while, and so I had to go back to closing my eyes and learning to trust again. I can distinctly remember the feeling of his one hand on the small of my back, his extended one so strong and firm, giving me no doubt that he knew where he was going to go. I was willing to go anywhere with him.

I'm hoping that maybe the kids peeked out of their doors that night, as many do, to catch a glimpse of their parents embraced because they wanted to be, feeling the love and the joy swirl around them like fairydust. I wouldn't have known. Maybe they did. And maybe Richard saw them. And maybe he caught their little faces and gave them a wink and a smile before sending me into a spin and pulling me back home again...

I really hope they did.

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Dec 09, 2023

Lovely! I didn't know that about you and Richard.


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