No, he’s not my husband. Five minutes before this photo was shot, I had never laid eyes on the man. But let me explain. It all began in 1968, as I was leaving for my first high school dance. As I headed for the door, Granny called out: “Now remember, Dear, dance with EVERY boy who asks you.” Her feeling was that to ever say, “No, thank you,” would be crushing to a fellow who had worked his courage up to ask in the first place. So, I did and in the years since, not only have I never ‘sat one out,’ I have even taken to doing the asking myself.
Such was the case last week as I shopped for produce at Whole Foods. Somewhere between the flowers and the blueberries, music began to play; lovely, danceable music. As I turned towards the musicians, I noticed an older gentleman standing off to the side keeping time with his foot. I walked up and asked him to dance. He said, “No, thank you. I’m just here to listen to the band.”
Frankly, he took a bit of coaxing but within minutes we were moving to a song whose name I can’t remember. By then, I had dropped my coat and shopping bag to the floor. His shy smile began to beam as others stopped to watch us. Emboldened, we began to widen our circle and grasped hands. Neither of us had a clue as to what we were doing, nor did we follow any kind of actual step like the waltz or foxtrot. We just danced, this complete stranger and I. From the corner of my eye, shoppers stopped to smile, a grinning cashier paused at his register, and a little girl pointed us out to her mother in wonder.
Why does she ‘wonder’? I ask myself. Our brief lives should be filled with moments like these; times we simply drop what we are doing and move to the music. Moments don’t just happen. We make them come alive by risking and yes, dancing. These moments become our memories. If we don’t make them joyful, we are doomed to a bitter old age. Besides, the music doesn’t play forever. So, to Granny, ‘Thank you for that advice.’ And to Vernon, ‘Thank you for the dance!’
Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the 13 years her ‘advice-giving’ Granny descended into Alzheimer’s.