It was a small-town dance, in the American Legion Hall, with music provided by six enthusiastic musicians—five accordion players and a drummer. They were good, too.
I’ve always loved to dance. Old-fashioned ballroom dancing, that is—more "Lawrence Welk" than "Dancing With the Stars." It’s great fun, not to mention great exercise, to spin around the floor in an energetic polka, a rhythmic foxtrot, or, best of all, a graceful waltz.
Yet now, dancing breaks my heart. My husband and dance partner, who waltzed better than anyone else I’ve ever danced with, died four years ago. One of the things I lost along with him was dancing.
Recently, I got a little bit of it back. I was visiting my parents and went with them to a dance. They’ve done many a mile around a dance floor, having surely waltzed across Texas a couple of times and probably Oklahoma as well. At this stage of their lives they can’t dance much, but they still enjoy listening to the music and watching other dancers.
As I sat with them, my heart was aching. I hadn’t forgotten the pleasure of waltzing with my tall husband, following his sweeping strides and being swung around in great swooping circles by his long arms. He was a foot taller than me, so when we danced I couldn’t see over his shoulder. We used to joke that I needed a periscope so he could safely dance backwards, and that it was lucky he always wore plaid shirts so I had some scenery to look at.
Despite my memories, part of me was enjoying the music and the sight of the dancers. I soon picked out one of the best dancers in the room, an older man who had come in with the band. His name was embroidered on his shirt. It was the same as one of the old-time movie cowboys; let’s just call him Roy Rogers. He was out on the floor for nearly every dance, first with women from his own group, then with the others who sat on their folding chairs around the edges of the room. There were many more women than men in the crowd, and it looked as if he were making himself personally responsible for seeing that every woman, partner or not, had an opportunity to dance.
Eventually, he got around to me. At first I was surprisingly nervous. What if I had forgotten how to dance? What if I couldn’t make conversation with this man I had never met? What if I stumbled or slipped or made a fool of myself?
None of that happened, of course. He danced so smoothly that it was easy to follow him. He was a friendly soul who probably could have made conversation with a fence post, so chatting with him was comfortable. He even managed to introduce me to his wife, the lead accordion player, as we waltzed by. I sat down at the end of the dance, relieved that I had gotten through it and beginning to truly remember how much fun dancing could be.
He came back later in the evening for another waltz. This time, I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t comparing this dance with my bittersweet memories. I wasn’t worried about keeping up or doing it right. I simply had fun.
This friendly man gave me a gift far greater than he could have intended or realized. He opened the door to the possibility that dancing is something I can enjoy again.
Thanks, Roy. Bless your kind heart and your dancing feet. May you waltz your way around many more dance floors.