Grandma grooves

  • Mike Watson Images

Published: 2/13/2020 9:44:11 AM

Some number of years ago, a friend wrote, “I used to go to weddings, now I go to funerals.” It seemed an apt description of our lives. A time that marked a subtle transition, from middle age to seniority. It’s true, we reflected, how often we gathered together to commemorate lives well lived. Experience our collective losses as we shared too many good-byes. So, we nodded in agreement and acknowledged the writer’s common, if sad, marker of the inevitable.

But now suddenly and happily, there is a new generation of weddings. The hold-out children who in their forties have found a soulmate. Or the children of our adult children and with them a whole new cycle of beginnings not endings. Joyous occasions to attend. Colorful outfits to assemble. Happy reunions to anticipate. And of course, dancing. Yes, weddings promise dancing. And despite the cranky hips and shortened breath, when the music starts, it’s time to dance. Which means it’s time to get my own groove back on. And really even grandmas, even to the astonishment of their grandchildren, fancy that they still have a groove. Right? In fact, there is even an aerobics class aptly titled, “Groove.” And many of us, old and young, dare to wiggle and swagger, a hesitant swagger perhaps but still a swagger.

I took a more deliberate stock of the attendance in “Groove.” There were two rows of us “groovers,” and I was far from the only grandma. I knew for a fact that there were at least six other grannies in the line-up. I’m pretty sure that there were at a few others on the cusp. And of course, many others too young to even be in the running, but all with our game face on. Our welcoming instructor seemed undaunted by her diverse class and well-prepared to lead us all on a choreographed journey. She started off demonstrating steps: A spicy samba and a perky mamba, a shuffle with “attitude” and sashays that strutted in one direction then spun in another. There was serious attention to the precise footing but also, in my case, a readiness to embrace my inner klutz. And then came the music. It was fast, it rocked, it was “Pitbull.” Before we knew it, we were grooving to Pitbull.

Our instructor was inspirational, her groove so infectious that if I ignored the mirror’s reflection, for a few seconds I became her, all swing and jazz and gyrating joy. Unfortunately, it didn’t last all that long before grandma reality sunk back in and gravity reasserted its anatomical truth. I was soon winded and behind the beat. “It’s okay,” our magnanimous instructor kept saying, “Just have fun. Slow down, walk it.” And so I did, I walked it, but when the song said to “drop down and drop down more,” unwilling knees creaked on their unoiled hinges. Despite the thrumming beat, there were limits. Still, I tried to negotiate those Charleston kicks with the pistol hands. Tried to urge hips to once again pulse their ancient, teenage selves, which they soon declined. But by the end of the class, I couldn’t hear the complaining body parts for all the victory cries of “we did it,” and the celebratory hi’fi’s.

“We did it,” we repeated to each other, reinforcing that sort of secure belonging that comes from just showing up. We may not know each other’s last names or occupations, but we share a commitment to overcome the knee surgeries, back operations and foot injuries that may have benched us, but only for a while. With each repair and recovery, we welcomed each other back to class with relief. Hoping there may yet another step. Another class. An ever-lasting groove.

So when a few days later, shopping with a granddaughter, a Pitbull song comes across the store’s loud speakers, I can’t resist. I’m dancing. “What are you doing? Stop!” my embarrassed granddaughter exclaimed. “I’m dancing to Pitbull,” I told her. “I’ve got my groove,” and yes she rolled her eyes.

Ruth Charney is a resident of Greenfield.

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