My husband of thirty-nine years, Arthur, and I were definitely in a rut. Our idea of a night out on the town had dwindled to watching the Weather Channel on TV, snoring away in companion tilt-back chairs. So when our children gave us a generous gift for our upcoming 40th wedding anniversary of a year’s worth of square dancing classes, we decided to “go for it!”
(Never mind that Arthur has fallen arches and that I, Martha his spouse, have arthritic knees. Not to mention that between the two of us, we have about enough rhythm to play ring-a-round-the-Rosie with our grandchildren—resulting in spells of vertigo for days afterwards.)
But, hey! We want to show our kids we can meet a challenge, right?
“Arthur, honey, don’t you think if we just go to a couple of lessons, we can get a refund on the rest and use the money for one of those combination walk-in bathtub/shower units?”
“Now, Martha, you know that would disappoint them after they finally agreed on the perfect present for us. Besides, where’s your sense of adventure?”
“It went south along with everything else,” I muttered.
That was before I realized I would get some new clothes out of the deal. Hopes high, I ventured out to the dancing apparel shop for advice. What I got was raised eyebrows and condescending smirks from the youngsters posing as sales clerks.
“You mean you don’t carry any polyester pull-up pants in western colors? I’m not sure my shape would fit into those tight jeans . . . Those shirts are tailored for skinny-mini’s . . . I look better in oversized camp-style shirts.”
The store manager, giving me the jaundiced once-over look of experience learned the hard way, led me to the back of the store for a semi-private consultation.
“You know, ma’am, some studios require their most promising students to wear the old-style formalwear instead of the newer cowgirl look. I think you will find the outfits on this rack more to your liking.”
Okay, so I look like a chubby senior version of the Shirley Temple doll—at least the waists are expandable so I can breathe! I chose a pink and white gingham skirt with a pearly white can-can, I mean, petticoat, with a complimenting full-cut ruffled blouse.
“Arthur, you sure got off easy with your old western costume. I must say, the turquoise bolo tie matches your new belt buckle admirably. And, I might add, you look very handsome in those boots!”
“Break a leg, darling, and remember that you’re my gal tonight!”
The dance instructor was very patient in the beginning:
“All right then, Martha, this dance step is very simple. Step IN, Step OUT, Step IN, Step OUT. No, no, Arthur, the promenade involves your hand over your head joined to the others. Remember, Snap IN, Snap OUT, Snap IN, Snap OUT . . .”
Dragging our stiff bodies out of the car, I limp while Arthur shuffles, to our front door.
“Race you to the couch,” I wisecrack as we both collapse in tousled heaps in the nearest chairs.
“Oh, my aching back,” Arthur bends over slowly to remove his steamy boots.
CRACK! “Ow!” I yell, as I straighten out my knee, peeking at my husband between layers of ruffling chiffon netting, now splayed under my chin.
After a few minutes of huffing and puffing and wincing, I ventured,
“Do you see the remote anywhere?”
“I think you must be sitting on it.”
“I don’t think so. I definitely remember setting it in your chair before we left.”
Simultaneously, we both shift our bodies so that we can reach underneath.
“Nope! Not here, either.”
“There it is!” we say in unison, seeing it parked innocently on the couch that seems a football field away.
“I’ll get it,” he says, not moving.
“No, I will. You stay put,” as I feebly attempt to stand, “Ouch! My knee’s out again,” and I plop back down.
“Let’s just pray and go to sleep right where we are.”
“Okay by me. Maybe the remote will look closer in the morning.”
Reaching for and clasping hands together, we both fall asleep in the middle of our prayers. I dream of a new walk-in bathtub appliquéd with “do-sa-do” and “swing your partner” phrases dancing frantically IN and OUT of the stall while he dreams about vapor-rub and hot water bottles hopping IN and OUT of the medicine cabinet.
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