(I wrote this post last week before the competition but got too caught up in the excitement to share it. Since it is Mother’s Day, it almost seems more appropriate now. May your heart be touched!)
I’ve arrived. I’m sitting in my bed at the beachfront Deauville Resort after experiencing my first evening of dancing at The International Hustle Salsa Congress in Miami! Wow! What a humbling experience. Not only are the professionals amazing dancers but the attendees are too. There were more women performing perfect “Diva walks” than on a New York fashion show runway.
At my last lesson with Raul before departing for Miami, he rather gingerly asked if I wanted to compete in the “general population” or in the “silver” category. I heard myself immediately reply, “Silver.”
Some people wouldn’t want to be categorized with the older group of competitors but since I made the cutoff it seemed counter intuitive to deny the opportunity to perform with fellow quinquagenarians (50-60 year-olds). I mean the whole point of this trip is to celebrate my birthday right?
The way I see it, this whole pro-am experience is a coming of age celebration. I could have aimed for the younger group, colored my hair to appear more youthful but the idea of doing that felt like betrayal. It was that still small voice that prompted me to stop coloring my hair a year and a half ago and now she’s whispering “Go as you are,” fifty-five, fit and crowned in silver.
Two days before departure, I was feeling an inner excitement I can only describe as youthful exuberance. My whole body was lit up with energy. Sleep was elusive as my mind wandered to images of Hustle and Salsa moves I’ve either accomplished or aspire to accomplish. Apparently I did fall asleep at some point because I dreamt I was in Burbank, the neighborhood of my youth.
In my dream, I was walking down Ontario Street where I used to hold hands with my kindergarten sweetheart, Danny Gofredo. In those days I’d often wear Danny’s big sister’s white prom dress synched around my waist with a scarf while Danny donned his brother’s warn out black suit jacket as we pretended we were getting married. Even with waistlines and sleeves bunched up our hemlines dragged on the sidewalk as we walked to my house a block away. Danny would tell my mom, “I love Lisa so much.” Then he’d kiss my arm like Gomez kissed Morticia on the Addams family. Remember that show about the misadventures of a blissfully macabre but extremely loving family? Sounds similar to my own now. We were five- years-old but I remember the feeling of happiness and love like it was yesterday.
Back in my dream, I was my adult self. I walked alone down tree lined Ontario Street where modest homes with raised foundations, front porches and side walks bordered me on both sides. Suddenly, a tornadic wind blew so strong that it lifted me off my feet, but rather than panicking, I tucked my knees into my chest and floated to that childhood home. I was swept up but not afraid. I could move in any direction I wanted. It was exhilarating and carried me back to that same feeling of kindergarten bliss.
I haven’t always had a positive outlook on aging. It was buried for a long while. After Justin died, there were many nights when I begged God to let me die in my sleep. I wasn’t suicidal, but like every mother I’ve ever met whose child has died, the longing to be with him was so great and the pain of waking up to the reality that he was no longer here in physical form so intense, that I just wanted out.
Over time, the pain began to ease enough that I started to recognize what a gift a healthy body was. Sometimes I’d find myself becoming annoyed with people who didn’t appreciate their health. I’d see a teenage boy smoking a cigarette and think, Justin would have loved that healthy body. Justin always saw the bright side. Even in the end he whispered encouragement to Dave and I as we sat at his bedside.
So, here in Miami, alone in my king size bed, my eyelids become heavy with sleep. I exit the last day of my fifty fourth year buoyed by a wave of contentment that this dance weary body is falling asleep in a state of happiness and love much as it had in its childhood.
This pro-am experience is the perfect marriage between the past and the present, youth and age. This is what fifty-five looks like, inside turn, cross body lead, Bam!
I joy in this body’s ability to have brought four souls into this earth. I fearlessly say yes to the experiences I long for in this lifetime. Yes, Raul, enter me in “Silver”. I’ll shake my “money maker” proudly and with gratitude. The wind has carried me to this far off exotic place where dancers share some youthful happiness and love for physical expression and glitter!