Friday, September 18, 2009

44 Years - And Still Dancing

Today's date calls to mind a myriad of images and thoughts, but the most prevalent is the memory of the event that makes this date so special for me; our wedding day.

It was a day of sunshine and warmth, as most days are in Miami, and my first thought when I woke up was that this was the last I would spend in my room at my parent's house. It wasn't long before I was standing in front of that home, where I had spent my teen years, my wedding gown laid out on the back seat of my girlfriend's car, and my dad standing beside me with tears in his eyes. It was only the second time in my life I'd ever seen him cry. "See you at the church, Daddy," I said, kissing his cheek.

Staring out a window, in an upstairs room at the church, dressed in my dream gown, with my bridesmaids and my mother as companions, I had my only moments of nervousness - because the groom was late! I could see my dad, pacing out in front of the church entrance. I had no qualms that R.J. wouldn't show up; he was always late for everything. It was a little distressing to me, however, that he would continue that bad habit on our most important day! But then I saw the best man's car pull up and R.J. get out, looking harried, but handsome. He exchanged words with my dad and he laughed, and they walked into the church. The moment I had waited for my whole life was upon me.

As the strains of the wedding march began, my dad leaned over and whispered, "Be happy, honey" and I answered that I was sure I would. And I was. Walking down the aisle, seeing only R.J. at the altar, I had none of those butterflies or doubts that I've heard many brides have at that moment. I knew I was doing the "most right" thing I had ever done by marrying this man.

Our years together have proven that. No, they haven't all been easy, and a couple of times we nearly gave up. But we always found a way back to each other because neither of us could imagine a life without the other. I always look to him as my confidante, my lover, my rock in times of crisis, and the person I'd rather spend time with than any other. I can truly say I am still married to my best friend.

We've struggled at times, we've thrived and enjoyed our bounty when those times presented themselves, and we've shared experiences so unique we still don't believe that a lot of them happened to us. We are infinintely proud of our two children, who are now raising children of their own. They all give us new joys and experiences that enrich our marriage as well.

So, tonight, after 44 years of learning and sharing together, we will take to the dance floor at our favorite lounge, the historic Pump Room in Chicago, to spend a few special moments recreating the first time we ever danced together, in the cafeteria of our high school, at a dance where we first fell in love. And I will pray that we're still celebrating the same way 44 years from now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Dancing Hero

Since becoming a dancer myself, at the young age of 8, I have had my heroes among the dancing world. Serious injuries to both my knees in my 30's ended my dancing days, but I continue to watch and learn from special individuals who share my passion for the dance. One of those I admired most was Patrick Swayze.

I still remember his effortless and mesmerizing performance in "Dirty Dancing". By the time that movie came out, my dance experience was limited to observation; a posture not easily suffered by those who have known dance as a discipline. The originality of his movements, the style that he introduced in that film, made me a fan for life. Even the last time I saw him dance, in a flawed film he made with his wife and partner of 30-plus years, Lisa Neemi, I was still in awe of the way he maneuvered his body, in a way that any dancer of his age would find almost impossible; he pulled me in to the moment as I marvelled at his unending ability and unique talents.

It wasn't only his physical ability that I admired. His performance in "Ghost" will always be one of the most complete and touching, and I never failed to appreciate the positive effort he gave in his acting choices. But, most of all, his approach to life, and especially to its struggles, gave me much to respect. There was no Hollywood phony there; he was the genuine article.

When I watched his touching interviews, after he became ill, all I could think about was how frustrated he must be that he could no longer will his body to dance. It is a feeling only another dancer can fathom. And, God, what a master he was! I am lucky that I will always have his work on film to enjoy long after this sad day is past. But, whenever I see him catch Baby in that incredible lift at the end of "Dirty Dancing", I know I will mourn the fact that he didn't have enough time on this earth to do all the dancing he still had in him.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

On My Soapbox

Normally, I don't address political issues here, but this one was triggered when I found myself re-reading old journal entries from about fifteen years ago, and realized that, even though we - referring to my family as a whole - are still working just as hard, our way of life is nowhere near what we enjoyed back then.

There are some at the top of the political ladder, such as our current President, who "get it"; who realize that the "middle class" that my husband and I considered ourselves lucky to be a part of, is disappearing. There are so many millionaires, or pseudo-millionaires, in our society today, that we have slid into a new type of lower class, I guess.

We no longer enjoy simple pleasures such as eating out on a regular basis, going to movies and shows whenever we want, taking trips to visit friends or explore new areas, going shopping for luxuries and clothes we want, not just need, and generally enjoying the fruits of our honest labors. In a more serious vein, we can no longer buy affordable health insurance, consider buying a home, a new car, or rewarding our offspring with occasional monetary gifts. These were all aspects of our life that were just habit in those journals I read and I thought, we can't do any of this anymore!.

Yes, I know we're in the worst recession since the great Depression, and yes, I know we all have to "bite the bullet" and try to make it through. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm referring to the fact that our society has expanded in an unhealthy way; one that excludes that middle income family. We are not rich enough to afford the things we once took for granted - and not poor enough to have them provided for us by government assistance. We still work just as hard for our money, but our lifestyle - and that of our struggling children - is nothing like what we envisioned or enjoyed in the past.

It makes me angry when I hear the "haves" declaring that "nothing is wrong with our system", that we don't need to tax the ultra rich, that we don't need price controls, or reform for health care, or any of the other measures that might stem this greed that now pervades our society, leaving the defunct middle class forgotten in its wake to make "more, more, ever more".

What a soapbox this is today! Couldn't help it, though. I still harbor hope, in my unending optimism, that things will get better. I know this current economic mess will right itself eventually, but that isn't my focus here. I want to see the endless media seriously address the issue of what has happened to that middle class life I treasured as my children grew up and we were able to constantly strive for better things because we knew they were possible. And I don't mean a two-minute piece on the morning newsmagazine. This is the country where anyone is supposed to be able to have a good life for their loved ones if they work hard. The meaning of that sentence has certainly changed - and not for the better. Think about it.