Posts Tagged ‘dancing’

My Paula

June 21, 2012

In the midst of my grief over my father’s death, my elder friend Paula had the audacity to die on me too. She and I were instigators at best, bandits at worst. She recognized me when I walked down the hall of the nursing home and called out to me. “Hey sweetie, where you been?” I could have been gone a week or ten minutes, it didn’t matter. I was her long lost friend. I’d bend over her wheelchair; she’d place her hands on either side of my face and kiss me right on the mouth. We had no shame.

She was from New York City, a bohemian hippie who wore full-flowing gauze skirts, peasant tops, open toe sandals and no bra way before it was popular. She wore her hair long, sometimes pinned up and sometimes flowing around her shoulders. She colored it a whore red and put on lipstick to match.

“What’s on tap today?” I’d ask.

“Something stronger than beer I hope,” she’d answer.

Paula had the most beautiful lilting voice and sang so sweetly that those who happened to catch a note, stopped mid-stride and turned to her, waiting for the melody to continue.  She studied classical music at Juilliard when she was a girl and gave voice lessons for a fee when she graduated.

She was married five or six times. I asked her once why so many and she said, “Why would anyone stop at just one when there are so many to choose from?  I’d have lived with them all, but my mother insisted I marry. She was so old fashioned.” Each of her children was fathered by a different man. Her babies scattered over the world and sent her letters, cards and packages from exotic places.

She had the tiniest feet and danced wildly upon them, swinging her thin hips and tossing her head back and from side to side, smiling behind that curtain of red hair. Her snapping green eyes sparkled with mischief. She was game for any adventure and we took several.

One cold December we bundled in black velvet capes over satin dresses and attended a gala at the theater in town. It was an Opera. I’d never been to one, wasn’t sure I’d like it, but Paula assured me I’d fall in love. At ninety, in her three inch heels, tottering at my side, a purple chapeau affixed in a jaunty angle with a fancy rhinestone hat pin on her head, Paula sparkled. Her glitter and glow put everyone else to shame that night. I can still hear her toe tapping to the music, and feel her small fingers tightening around mine as she let the music take her into another world. She was right. I did fall in love that night, but not with the Opera. I fell in love with her.

I can only imagine that my red headed Paula came into this world on the notes of a song, because on Monday, she took her last breath to the music of Vivaldi, another red head with a passion for music.


Antonio Vivaldi: Opera”ARGIPPO” RV 697, Act 2 – Aria (Zanaida) “Io son rea dell’onor mio.”

An Uncut Patch of Buttercups

April 22, 2012

I clip the ipod shuffle to the frayed neckline of one of my oldest son’s threadbare tee shirts. I’ve stolen the shirt from his drawer. The sleeves are cut off and the faded gray form hangs loose on me, great for catching a breeze as it blows through.  I secure the ipod ear buds, slide the power button and feel the beat from Dwight Yoakam’s White Cadillac travel from my head to my feet. I rock across the front porch on my way to meet my nemesis, the red troy built push lawnmower. I prime the machine and pull the start cord. The mower roars to life and my battle with the grass and my exercise plan begins.

I hate walking a track, riding a bicycle to nowhere, or sweating on a treadmill. I want to know, right away, that the work on my muscles is providing a reward I can see. I’ve found that cutting the grass gives me some instant gratification, an increased heart rate, and a neatly manicured yard.

Bruce looks at me and shakes his head. It’s the ipod. He thinks I’ve gone all-teenager on him. He doesn’t own an ipod or anything with ear buds.  He’s a retired mechanic with a lawn maintenance and mulching business. The sound of his machines provides a melody only his ears can hear. He likes being able to pick out anomalies in motor sounds or just listen to a gentle smooth-running purr. The ipod may speak teenager to him, but our teenage years are well behind us.

We met when I was sixteen, a senior in high school. He was older than me, already graduated and working. He took me to my prom in his ’76 Ford Pick-up. We slow danced to Bob Seger on the radio in my mother’s kitchen.  Life was big, our future endless. Together, we could accomplish anything.  Some thirty years later, we find togetherness in yard work.

My mower is not self-propelled, and it takes me four hours to cut the entire yard. I usually break the work up into smaller parts during the week. At the end of seven days, it’s time to start over again.  Mowing would be easy if the task ahead of me was all flat ground, but we have some killer hills. I sweat and my legs burn.

Bruce takes the weed eater and heads to the steep bank at the front of the property nearest the highway. He cuts the steepest hills and follows behind me at a covert and safe distance to catch my misses. I’ve told him he’s not allowed to direct my exercise plan or my mowing. He’s a perfectionist; I’m not.

I head to the backyard and begin mowing rows back and forth, under the clothesline and around the outdoor wood burning furnace, all the way to the garden gate and just to the opening of the tin roofed shed. I move the youngest boy’s bicycle and prop it against the picnic table. Buttercups are tall and bright in the yard. Their height makes my visual track easy to distinguish. The right side of the yard where I’ve cut is all short grass and green, the left side, uneven and tall with thousands of yellow dots. Creedence Clear Water Revival sings Bad Moon Rising as I turn the corner to the side yard, mowing between the lilac and mock orange bushes, around the peonies and under the snowball bush. The slope in the yard is higher here and I work harder.

We used to listen to CCR when we camped by the river after we were first married. Fire-roasted hot dogs on sticks, Proud Mary rolling from the radio,  and star gazing outside a pitched tent was all we needed or wanted. We were the only two people in the world.

My legs begin to wobble and my throat is parched. I shut off the mower and grab my water bottle from the steps leading to the shed. I go in search of some shade to cool off a bit. As I round the corner of the house I meet Bruce. He’s leaning against the shaded wall, drinking from his own bottle of water. I join him and the two of us rest and wipe sweat from our faces.

My ipod switches to Bob Seger’s We’ve Got Tonight, the first song we ever danced to. I smile and take one of the ear buds out, placing it in Bruce’s ear. He smiles back, remembering. He takes my hand and leads me to a small patch of uncut buttercups in the front yard, and the two of us slow dance to a memory.