I am wandering trails again, long distances around lakes, beside marshes, under oaks and pines.
I am meandering streets in New York City, discovering coffee shops and used book stores.
There are no sharp jolts of pain or dull pulsing aches.
I do not need a cane.
I am free.
To return to movement is a gift- from my surgeon and his team, all the Physical Therapists who have guided me, my loved ones, and most of all, my own body. Every day, I have to get quiet enough to stretch and strengthen key muscles, and while this is an exercise in discipline, it’s a conversation worth having, because it leads to thoughtless walking and playful dancing.
My Mom was my first dance teacher. I was 5 years old, recently out of my first hip surgeries, when we danced in the living room to album after album of 1950s hits like The Diamonds “The Stroll” and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” I can still see her in her gingham bandana, taking a break from housework to dance with me, my small self beside her, trying to mimic her moves.
I danced the polka with all my relatives at church parties to songs like Frankie Yankovich’s “Roll Out the Barrel” and “Just Because You Think You’re So Pretty.” Every Christmas Eve, my Dad and I danced to Slim Whitman’s “Christmas Polka.” Now, when the snow falls in New York, and I can’t get to Florida, I sip creme de menthe and call him to listen to that song together.
My Grandpa taught me the box step as we watched Patti Page perform “The Tennessee Waltz” on The Lawrence Welk Show. I remember standing on his feet, marveling at his height, feeling lady-like and fancy. My Grandma played Strauss’s “The Blue Danube,” on her organ. I watched her fascinated, thinking she was going to float right off the seat with that beautiful music. Thanks to Gene and Sylvia, I fell in love with Cajun waltzes, like The Magnolia Sisters’ “Valse amitie,” and my feet know what to do.
By middle school, I was taking disco lessons and practicing Mexican folk dancing.
Line dances like The Bus Stop and The Car Wash easily translated from days strolling with my Mom. I proudly wore my glittery outfits, even though others tried to convince me that “disco sucked.” I knew it didn’t, and I still love it, especially the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer, and her song “Hot Stuff” as well as Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate.”
My friends, Glenda and Mariela, taught me how to stomp my feet and swivel my hips for “The Mexican Hat Dance” and Ritchie Valen’s “La Bamba.” To this day, I can’t sit still when I listen to Latin music, and I am currently in love with the Columbian band, Monsieur Perine, especially their song “Mi Libertad.”
In the 80’s, I admittedly hid from the music that was popular at the time. Instead, I attached to 1960’s folk and 70’s rock. I have fond memories of dancing with my brother Matthew to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner,” and jamming to Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” with my brother Michael.
The early 1990s were synonymous with two kinds of dance-swing, and what I will loosely call, alternative, or maybe Goth mixed with New Wave and 80’s pop.
I was working as a high school teacher when the resurgence of swing hit Tampa. My students begged me to be the faculty sponsor of our school’s Swing Dance Club, and we had such a good time, dressing up vintage and dancing to songs like Louis Prima’s “Jump Jive and Wail” and Jacob and Secunda’s “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” as well as the more contemporary bands like The Stray Cats and The Big Bad Voodoo Daddies.
While I was swinging at Tampa’s Sugar Palm Ballroom, I was also frequenting a club called The Castle, where I owe any graceful vampire moves I learned to my friend and fellow witchy poet-artist, Melissa Fair. Together she and I danced our asses off to Simple Minds, David Bowie, Joy Division, The Smiths, The Cure, Thrill Kill Cult, KMFDM, Social Distortion, and Sisters of Mercy to name just a few.
Melissa was a beautiful dancer who taught me to find my hips and root myself more into the bass and drums. Her charms must have worked some powerful magic, because here I am now, married to a bassist. Thanks to my beloved, I appreciate all things deep groove like James Brown, Bootsie Collins, and my favorite, The Meters.
I am still happily discovering more music. The silence and stillness that I lived for the last ten years has broken, filled once again with sound and movement.
I hear poems as I step.
I am turning and returning.
I am free.