Music is in my genes. My earliest known forefather of music is Stephen Foster, composer of “My Old Kentucky Home” and other songs of Americana was an uncle of a grandfather a few generations back. I grew up listening to my paternal grandfather play jazz vibraphone. He was at as good as Lionel Hampton, I am convinced. As far back as I can remember Dad’s clear bass has been a valuable asset to his church choir, with many solos to his name. Invitations by small music groups to share his snare drum talent continue to this day. My mother’s uncle sang at the Met; her brother had a voice that would make women swoon. And in her day, I’ve been told that even Mom could belt out “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me” as good as any one of those Andrews Sisters. In their twenties, my parents were swing and jitterbug winners of nearly every contest they entered.
Where’s the evidence of music in me? Now that’s a tough one. I pined for piano lessons as a child and the lady next door even said she’d teach me for free. But we had no piano for me to practice and in those days no one was giving away the old family uprights like they do today because they weren’t old yet! I grew up in the 50s and 60s when rock and roll made its debut. This new music genre gave me a chance to express my love of music through dance. Not dance like foxtrot or waltz. Dance like the watusi, the mashed potato, and whatever we did with jitterbug undertones. And what was that go-go-girl ‘dancing’ called? Ed and I had many great dance nights in the early years of marriage. After all, he is quite the accomplished musician. One of our most memorable was New Year’s Eve 1979 at the Officer’s Club at Oceana, moving our feet to “You took a fine time to leave me Lucille.” Gazing into each others’ eyes, he nearly proposed to me while that crazy song kept our feet moving. I guess that’s just an example of what music can do. Over the years we both forgot whatever we knew, and we never kept up with the changing culture of contemporary dance.
Did I sing? No. I wanted to. I remember singing a duet with my dad at a church picnic when I was in my early teens. We sang “Edelweiss.” I worked so hard to maintain control of every note. It came out all right but real classical vocal training would have helped me at least breathe through the song. What a workout! Somehow by the time we lived in Jersey, I had developed a decent voice and for seven years co-led worship that the congregation actually appreciated.
By the time we got to the Midwest in 1996, my dancing days were long gone. And, hard as this may be for some to grasp, the church situation we found ourselves in stifled all sense of self in me, including my vocal talent. From day one upon arriving, I could not continue past one verse without my voice closing off. It’s never come back even though we left that group twelve years ago.
For quite some time, ten years maybe, I have been begging Ed for us to take ballroom dance lessons. Since we do both love music, we find ourselves at many places where dancing is encouraged. But I’m embarrassed to be on the dance floor, looking like two old has-beens, clueless to real dance designs. I wanted to start with the foxtrot and swing and eventually move into all the pretty Spanish dance styles.
By a stroke of fate, we recently met two incredibly talented dance instructors, Jessica and Jim of Paramount Ballroom. Two days ago we had our first half hour group lesson to learn basic swing. And last night we tested ourselves at a 1940’s Hangar Dance at the National Airline History Museum in downtown KC. I was intimidated and self conscious at first. But a few dances with Ed, and with a friend named Joe and, of course, with Jim, I began to relax. Eventually I was able to let Ed lead me around the dance floor to swing, a foxtrot and even a rumba. All very basic steps, mind you. But still intended steps to real dances. By the end of the evening, we were laughing.
Contentment and self satisfaction made me smile as I drifted to sleep later. This morning I wondered, “Why does it seem like last night was the beginning of a magical time of my life?” Since 1999 I have been observing myself becoming me again. This next step to who I am beats to the music in my blood and soul that has been freed to flow again.
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