I could have danced all night...
Well, not really. After an hour or so of trying to remember long-forgotten steps--twinkles and grapevines and promenades--I was pretty well done in. It had been a couple of decades since I'd last put on my suede-soled shoes and fox trotted or jitterbugged, and I am not the dancer I once was. But it's good to be a dancer again.
Last Friday at Wake Robin we inaugurated what we hope will be a long string of ballroom dances. There were round tables with white cloths, a sizable wood floor, and music by Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. About twenty of us showed up--more women than men, as is always the case where moving to music is expected. For some, those big band sounds were the music that their parents danced and fell in love to. For others, it was the music of their high school days.
If a couple of years ago you had shown me a video of last Friday's scene, with me in it, I would have been incredulous. Possibly dismayed. Even frightened. What, me, in a retirement community, in the company of people some of whom are less than fleet of foot?
Like many Americans, I had bought into the superstition that old age is somehow contagious, and that the only way to keep ourselves young is to pretend that we will go on as we are forever. How ignorant I was of the many meanings and faces of aging, of its relative and unpredictable nature, of its inevitability and its gifts.
About Friday night, you really had to be there. There were ardent jitterbuggers, serene waltzers. There were women dancing with women, and people dancing with people who were using walkers and canes. At one point I asked a white-haired man who had just finished doing a competent waltz to dance with me.
"I would like to very much," he said. "But I'm tired. It happens when you're ninety-eight." So we sat together and watched the dancers.
I've heard that dancing activates the neurons in the pleasure centers of the brain, and that watching people dance has the same effect. Whether on the floor or off it, pleasure neurons were firing overtime at Wake Robin Friday night.
After an hour or so of steady dancing, we'd all had enough. As my husband, who was in charge of the tech end of things, turned off various switches and I went to fetch our coats prior to stepping out into yet another sub-zero gale, I smiled at the various things the dancers had left behind--a single glove, a bottle of red wine, a woolly scarf. The lost-and-found department at Wake Robin does a brisk business.
It wasn't until we got back to the cottage that I realized I'd left my water bottle behind.