When I was young, I danced in the living room with the carpet rolled back against the wall and my mother’s fringed light fixture pulled up by its chain so we wouldn’t bump our heads on it.
I danced with Joe, who had rhythm. He had been my friend since second grade, and we had an understanding. He got to wind up the Victrola, and I got to choose the record. We danced while Frankie sang “Embraceable You,” Vaughn Monroe crooned “Racing with the Moon,” and Frankie Laine belted out “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” Then Joe moved away. I needed a new partner.
Royhad style. He was made for Swing. We dipped and swayed to “Stella by Starlight” and “Now Is the Hour When We Must Say Goodbye.” I said goodbye to Roy with the dark curly hair and welcomed Ken, a redhead with freckles.
Ken liked to waltz. But it was hard to waltz to “Chattanooga Choo Choo” or “Little Brown Jug.” I kept Ken on the string because he went to UCLA, and the proms there were spectacular. I finally grew tired of waltzing – and of Ken – and opened the door for Jimmie.
Jimmy didn’t know the first thing about dancing, so I taught him – step by agonizing step. Jimmy had neither rhythm nor style. He wasn’t a college man, and he had two left feet. He was afraid to put his arm around my waist and kept letting it drop to my hip, which my mother didn’t like. As soon as possible, I introduced him to my cousin, Louise, who couldn’t dance either, and I rolled back the rug for the boy next door.
He was new to the neighborhood, and we met by the back fence when I was hanging a blouse to dry on the clothesline.
“Hello,” he said.
“Can you dance?” I asked.
Bob didn’t have Joe’s rhythm or Roy’s style, but he had other assets. He owned a
car. He blew faultless smoke rings. He was tall. He was a life guard. He was a college
man. And he was the best slow dancer I have ever known.
We hummed along as we swayed to “Autumn Leaves. We knew what it meant to have “All This and Heaven Too.” There were many “Full moons,” . . . but never “Empty Arms.” And when he put his arms around me, the night air filled with “Stardust.” When Perry Como asked, “Why Not Take All of Me?” we looked at each other and thought that was a pretty good idea.
We raised a family, survived a war, wrote eight books together, and traveled the world. We held hands at the Coliseum, kissed in the shadow of the pyramids, strolled along Londonstreets and listened for the “Nightingale in Berkeley Square.” We danced in a hotel in Shanghai, on the islandof Crete, on the deck of a ship in the South China Sea, and on a balcony in Sicilywhile Mt. Etna steamed.
Today, I dance alone. Oh, occasionally I dance with my three sons, and even with a grandson or two, but it isn’t the same. So I dance in the kitchen. I dance in the living room. I dance in the bedroom. I dance on the terrace in the moonlight. It is there, when a soft breeze whispers in the trees and the sleeping scent of roses fills the night air that I think I hear a melody – and I hold out my arms and sway in a slow dance as “You Keep Coming Back like a Song.”