When You Get the Choice to Sit it Out or Dance, I Hope You Dance
They weren’t the most remarkable couple on the dance floor, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. My mother, stylish and elegant, her black hair coiffed and sprayed, wore a flowing,
brown chiffon dress with rhinestone buttons. Her high-heeled shoes dyed in a matching shade clicked across the parquet floor with a faint fragrance of Chanel No. 5 trailing behind her. Dad, so handsome, was smartly dressed in a tailored European suit and silk tie in tones that accentuated the auburn waves combed across his forehead.
My eyes followed them as they danced across ballrooms at weddings and Bar-Mitzvahs of relatives and family friends. They had an easy, natural way of moving together. My father stood tall at six feet two inches next to my mother’s petite five foot four, but with the press of her cheek against his chest they effortlessly overcame the height disparity. For their eyes to meet, her chin had to tilt upward while his tipped down. Perhaps that’s why Dad always gave the impression of dancing with his eyes closed.
On and off the dance floor, they synchronized their steps as if striding in tandem, one balancing the other. Their styles were as incongruous as their heights. Mom was creative, sociable, and emotional while Dad was steady as a rock, patient, and unassuming. As their daughter, I can attest that it was a complementary coupling. They were partners for life.
In the twilight of her life, there were no more evenings on the dance floor. The glamourous dresses hung in garment bags in the downstairs cedar closet.
She was sitting by the kitchen table when I arrived. Following her recent treatments for multiple myeloma, she was feeling weak and tired. I was hoping she’d enjoy listening to the newly released CD of my klezmer band. I was the band’s lead singer, and my parents were proud fans. Dad adjusted the volume of the living room speakers so that the harmonizing of instruments and my vocals echoed through the house. The music appeared to have an effect. It was soothing, nostalgic, rousing.
Track number nine. A Yiddish-American love song of my parents’ era.
Something about the song prompted my father to stand before his wife. He extended his arm.
“Ellie, dance with me.”
She hesitantly rose to dance, frail as she was. Like a gentle giant, he wrapped the length of his arms around her waist. She pressed against him propped by his embrace. At first, they simply swayed, barely moving. But a familiar impulse seduced her feet, and soon her slippers were shuffling along the linoleum tiles. He jested, “Slow, slow, quick-quick,” mimicking a dance instructor’s lesson. From the sidelines, I laughed.
I watched them move, enveloped in a loving, trusting embrace. They seemed oblivious to my presence even as they were serenaded by the voice on the recording.
I imagined my parents exchanging their wedding vows 51 years earlier. “In sickness and in health.” Now, in the presence of their conjugal dance, I was a witness to the tender affirmation of that vow.
My eyes stayed fixed on them swaying in place on the kitchen floor. My voice was still singing through the living room speakers. It would be their last dance, sweet as melting ice cream, and I didn’t want the music to end.
Sharon inherited a love of dance from her parents. Here she dances the Viennese Waltz with her partner Vladimir to Anastasia's "Once Upon a December."
Sharon Citrin Goldstein, a resident of Fairfield and Delray Beach, Florida, has expressed her creative passions through multiple careers in the arts, business, education, and as an ordained Cantor. Whether composing sermons, marketing materials, or helping students write personal essays, she has embraced writing as a persuasive tool. Since her recent retirement from Beth El Synagogue in Woodbury, CT and the Anti-Defamation League, Sharon has devoted herself to writing her family memoirs. She also mentors for Literacy Volunteers and Book Buddies of Bridgeport. Her other passions include ballroom dancing, eating organic foods, and walking several miles each day with her husband Paul.
"I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance... I hope you dance..."
- I Hope You Dance
Lee Ann Womack