A wry smile parted his lips as this gray-haired fella eyed his misses. He was asking her to dance. Never mind the cane beneath her chair or the fact that moments earlier she struggled to rise, then lower herself, into a comfortable seat. He was delighted when she said, “Yes.”
A brass band played 40's swing beneath a make-shift dance hall built of canvas and tent poles. The floor was asphalt, sprinkled with gravel and awkwardly uneven. He led her, anyway, in gentlemanly fashion as though they were in a ballroom. He took her in his arms and they moved rhythmically as one. Her cane remained beneath the empty seat. I never saw her limp once. I did see her smile, however, at her persistent partner who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
Later, I caught a glimpse of him looking only at his beloved bride of decades and singing unashamedly an old familiar tune – something about April showers in Paris. His eyes shimmered under the dimly lit strands of extension cords and bare 100 watt bulbs that barely illuminated the open air auditorium. His uninhibited exhibition of romance made me feel a little jealous. While I tapped my toes and clapped along and really did want to dance...I sat. Most of the spectators in the room, like me, were so passive. But these two were fully engaged in the experience. How precious and fun their love for one another as well as their love for life. They had obviously shared many dances through their decades together.
They knew the words to those World War II big band hits. Maybe it was radio that kept them connected. Whether they endured the sting of that time side by side or thousands of miles apart, the horrors had not hindered a bond of love that outlasted the war to end all wars.
The upbeat brass sounds of “In the Mood” or the light-hearted lyrics of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” made several want to cut a rug. It was just the “bee’s knees” listening to selections from Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. Better yet, was watching a generation who has seen so much hardship, celebrate an era that to them is timeless. Even with food rations, men going to war and women going to work at a mere $.43 for minimum wage, the seniors in the crowd fondly remembered those good old days.
Watching them get swept away in the music of a time laden with hard realities, but simpler ways, made me realize that every generation faces a similar song and dance. We are challenged with frightening uncertainties in the midst of wonderful, personal triumphs. No one else often knows, let alone shares, the most significant moments, but those closest to us. Funny how the big, bad world events that consume so much of our thoughts and energy fade away over the years and we are left with tender, sweet, simple memories of the little, safe, delightful treasures that really shape and define us.
Life is a swing dance. Life is a brass band. Life is riveting and driven and loud and forceful at times. Life is soft and sultry and sensuous. I learned that by watching a couple so in love, get up and dance when it would have been easier to sit and listen. But it wouldn’t have been as much fun.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
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