It was “bloody two o’clock in the morning!” when Mom’s shouting alerted me from my reverie. I was dancing the night away with Fred Astaire in our overgrown closet of a living room in the old duplex on Franklin Street – at least I was in my mind. My imagination carried me away as I watched the great dance star on the old black and white movie on TV.
Mom let me go my own way most of the time, but there were limits to her patience. She didn’t sleep through a hurricane like I did. In fact, she could literally hear a pin drop. With six in the family sharing two bedrooms, it was three to a room, separated by gender. So, there was no sneaking into bed late at night without waking her.
Anyway, starting in seventh grade, every Friday night I kicked up my heels to the top hits on a 45 RPM record player in St. Thomas of Villanova school gym. Our chaperone/DJ played The Peppermint Twist with Chubby Checker and Love Me Tender by the late, great Elvis Presley. There was always a polka thrown in. But, I can hear the crooning of The Platters singing Goodnight Sweetheart, Well It’s Time to Go – the song that signaled the last dance.
This lasted through regular Friday night dances in high school at St. Katherine of Siena. We went from Surfin’ by the Beach Boys to the day The Beatles came storming in to the United States with I Want to Hold Your Hand. (And they better not do anything but hold hands, or those Immaculate Heart nuns would knock them into next week!)
Years later, when I was working in the publishing business, the owner asked me to list 10 things that I would like to do in my life, a bucket list of sorts.
High On My List Was to Dance with Fred Astaire
It was just a dream, of course. But, if you are going to dream, why not dream big? My wish died with Fred Astaire who left this world in June, 1987, dashing my hopes of someday dancing with the great star.
After I became a widow and moved to the city, ballroom dancing sounded like a great idea. But could I take lessons without a partner? So, I checked with a ballroom and met Johnny, who became my teacher. And, as far as I am concerned, he is just as good as Fred Astaire.
One day as I finished up a lesson, I struck up a conversation with a twenty-something, handsome young dancer who was practicing on his own. What a wonderful and beautiful dancer he was! I couldn’t help but compliment him. As we talked, Barry asked my advice. It seems he was at
A Crossroad in His Dancing Life
He was trying to make a decision —
“Should I shoot for the stars as a competitive professional dancer – or pursue an attractive career path that had just opened up to me?
His dilemma brought to mind all the years that I allowed to go by without dancing. I was nineteen and headstrong, when I took a path that led me away from thinking about dreams of dancing. In fact, I was indoctrinated into the notion that it was a “fools errand,” as Mom would say.
It seemed Barry was single, with no obligations beyond his car payment. My advice was: “Unless you think you can feel as passionate about the safe career as you are passionate about dancing, I would take the risk. Shoot for the stars and commit yourself to what you love. You don’t want to look back some day and wonder what happened.”
What Barry did in the end, I don’t know. We all have choices to make and limitations, too. I read somewhere that one of the routes to adulthood is learning your limitations. But, it was a long time before I accepted the fact that I would never have rich, thick, beautiful braids no matter how long I let my hair grow. Reality can be a real pain in the butt.
Seasons of our Lives
The seasons of our lives call for shifts in our priorities, whether or not we consciously recognized them. Many of us go into parenthood not fully conscious that it is a forever deal, one that will have profound effects on the rest of their lives. Yet, raising my children was both the most challenging and the most rewarding experience with which I have ever been blessed. And, I don’t know a parent alive or dead who was ever fully prepared for the role.
Where dancing could be a profession for Barry, dancing will be a leisure pursuit for me as an aging widow. My shooting for the stars will look a bit different from that of a young dancer. But, it is rare for someone to have a passion and a talent for something, that there is absolutely no way to achieve.
We just get distracted, or we never really set a passion we have as an actual priority. Sometimes we wish for something, but are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to actually achieve it. We let negative voices play in our heads, instead of reinforcing our “can do” spirit. Or we opt for what we are taught and trained to do and what is safe.
Vulnerability Can Be a Big Deterrent
What if you make a fool of yourself? Right now, the risk of looking like a fool is one that I am willing to take. A fellow elderly dance student says he wants to keep dancing as long as he can. Sounds like a great idea to me.
When I am old and frail, I would rather be satisfied that I gave life a good spin – that I lived life well while I had the chance.
In keeping with one of the keys to unlock the life of our dreams, here is my inspirational music video for this post is Dancing Queen. “You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.”
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