Thursday, April 1, 2010

"I Was A Dancer You Know"

I heard her before I saw her. I was loading groceries into the back of my car as she approached, the wheels of her little shopping cart squeaking and squealing.

”Looks like snow” she said. I nodded, I was tired and had more errands to do and didn’t want to get into a conversation.

”Busy, busy, busy” she said as she got closer. I turned and stopped what I was doing. She was beautiful. Her smile was wide and open. Her eyes twinkled. She was impeccably dressed. Very pulled together as my Nana would have said.

Her shopping cart was full; it looked like it weighed more than she did.

“Do you need help?” I asked. “No, not at all” she responded. “I live right there”. She pointed toward the senior housing complex across from the shopping center. “It’s run by the church you know” she said and rolled her eyes. I laughed. “Are they any good at running a building?” I asked. She laughed even more, “what do you think?” she said.

We chatted for a bit about this and that – the cost of food, the Pope, the way people drive too fast at the crossing.

”I sound like an old lady” she suddenly exclaimed. I told her she didn’t sound or look like an old lady.

”I’m 92” she said proudly. My face must have really shown how shocked I was because she laughed out loud. “Do I look good for 92 or are you amazed that I’m still ticking?” she asked as she continued to laugh.

”Look good for 92! You look good for 62”

”I was a dancer you know. I was part of the Polish Dance Company back when I lived up north. Those were great days. I worked for a publishing firm for 38 years. After work I went to practice and on the weekends we did shows all over the state. And I would go to the dance clubs on Friday and Saturday nights. Those were the days”

“You move like a dancer” I told her. “You’re so graceful”.

The twinkle in her eye really danced as she asked “are you sure it’s the way I move, or is it my Chanel?”

“It is a Chanel” I said as though I had just uncovered a great secret. “It is, it’s an original tote bag. I’ve had it forever. Everything about me says forever”.

“Good taste and class are timeless” I said and then immediately thought I sounded patronizing.

“Oh thank you! You’re a dear girl”. I love being called a girl and she could see that I was delighted.

”Not many people stop for me” she said, “I’ve had a wonderful time talking to you”

She said she had a pot of soup waiting for her at home. She made soup from scratch twice a week and froze it. “Nothing like a good bowl of soup to warm the bones” she told me as she started to walk away.

I watched her until she crossed the road and was safely on the walk to her building.

This first meeting was back in January. I see her often now. We chat. She calls me dear or sweetheart. She introduced me to some of the other ladies from the building. One of them remembered that I had helped her when her cart broke.

“She’s a good girl” my Chanel toting friend said proudly. “You can always tell the good ones”.

Yesterday I passed their building and had to stop as there was a bus blocking the intersection. A long line of the ladies were boarding the bus for a trip to a Broadway show. I watched with amusement as the driver across from me bounced around in her seat looking annoyed. I rolled down my window and called out “have a great time, don’t get into too much trouble”

As the bus pulled up to clear the intersection I heard the ladies laughing and my heart felt good.


Matt-Man said...

I love stuff like this. Damn you Di. Cheers Sexy!!

Kerry said...

You always make me smile.

the walking man said...

some days that is all it takes is a few words from a person who is busy living.

LadyFi said...

What a wonderfully inspiring story.

Dianne said...

matt-man - I know you do, your act never did fool me
love ya matty

kerry - thank you! that makes me happy

walking man - exactly! and she made me feel as good as I hope I made her feel
it's all about connection

LadyFi - thank you :)

Trisha said...

There is so much wonderfulness is people who have lived so long. Working with "seniors" is something I really enjoy. I find them endearing and lovely. I am glad you do too!

Doc said...

Very Sweet story Di !

Jeni said...

Loved this post, Dianne. Isn't it amazing the interesting people we can meet if we just extend a tiny bit of interest in chatting with folks we encounter along our way?

Linda Reeder said...

What an amazing writer you are. Your stories always have me hanging onto every word.
This story reminds me to slow down, take the time, there are treasures to be found.

3 Men and a Lady said...

Awww she sounds like a real character. I love characters! It's very cool to know that being 92 is all in your mindset.

ds said...

Ninety-two years young. Good for her! Good for you!

bobbie said...

Great post, Dianne. I'm glad there are people like you who will stop and chat. We seniors often need someone like you to pause for a few minutes and talk.

I wonder if Trisha (comment above) would find me "endearing"?

Daryl said...

What a fabulous post .. I was there with you thats how well you shared it .. and you are one fabulous broad! xo

ellen abbott said...

What a great post. thank you.

Ron said...

OMG...what a FLAWLESS post, Dianne!

A beautiful snippet of life.

Those moments that reach deep inside us and say....

....we are LOVED.

And you are, dear lady.

Because YOU love.


P.S. the whole Chanel thing just made me smile.

Sparkling Red said...

What a wonderful story! I can't imagine what it must be like to be over 90. I know that kids get younger-looking to me every day. I bet when you're 92 people in their 40's look like babies, relatively speaking. What a perspective!

Mrs. C said...

Cute! What are your plans for 92? :)

She Writes said...

It's nice to have encounters like this one!

Rob Inukshuk said...

What a delightful life affirming encounter. Beautifully told.

christopher said...

Excellent story Dianne. Very warm and well written!

Travis said...

Thank you for that story.

Michael Manning said...

I was very moved by this story, as I have always held the elderly in the highest regard. This was a story of compassion, Dianne! Well told and well done. You made a wonderful new friend!!!!

Scott Oglesby said...

This was beautiful Dianne, I loved it.

I thought only people in Florida used the phrase ‘up north?’ How much further up north can you get? Unless she meant Poland…have a good holiday hunny bunny!

Shrinky said...

What a gorgeous post! So, you are a writer AS WELL as a photographer? I moved from London to a tiny island, and it took me a couple of years to "slow down", I couldn't believe how people patiently stood in line until the cashier finished conversing with whoever was at the top of the queue (blush). Now I've grown to love that kind of thing. I laughed when I read your profile, my husband is a research planner in Advertising, I ALWAYS qualify what he does with, "He's not the kind who phones you"! So glad to have tripped across you.

Dianne said...

trisha - I think my Nana taught me how to respect and love older people :)

doc - thanks :)

jeni - you're right, it only takes a moment to change your whole day

linda r - you're always so kind to me, thank you

3 men/lady - I love characters too, the moment I saw the twinkle in her eyes I knew she was one

ds - I still can't believe she's 92!! I saw her the other day and the sun was shining on her face and she looked so young

bobbie - first you'll have to get old before we can decide if you're endearing
and that's a long time from now

daryl - I love when you call me a broad!! I'm so complex, a broad and a sweet girl
Oy!! no wonder I'm nuts

ellen - thank you :)

ron - flawless!? thank you so much
she noticed me eyeing the Chanel a few times and she just smiled
I was trying to figure out if it really was an original
it's like finding a piece of art :)

sparkling - she kept telling me what a good girl I was, I felt so young!! :)

mrs c - I will take a young lover - someone in his 70s - hehehehehehe

she writes - thank you :)

rob - it was life affirming, thanks kiddo

christopher - thank you :)

travis - I'm glad you enjoyed it, thanks

michael - thank you :)

scott - the whole up north thing is very NJ
everyone says they work up north, they're visiting grandma up north
it's as if the state is defined by the parkway and the turnpike

shrinky - I'm so glad you tripped over me too!!
thanks for such a lovely comment
hope you'll visit again
I'm off to find you :)

Mare said...

Your post made my day! God bless the 'tiny dancer' who touched your life. I'll bet she has beautiful eyes.

Micky-T said...

What a great story. The world is full of...the good ones!

Border Explorer said...

Love the story. Love you for telling it.

Bob-kat said...

She sounds like a helluva lady. I bet your life is richer for having stopped and chatted that day. Thanks for sharing this, it's very life affirming :)

Linda said...

Should I live to be 92, which I honestly don't think will happen, I hope that I still have the presence of mind to remember some of the things that I used to do as right now, I can't remember what I did last week for the most part.

Your friend sounds like a very precious jewel and she obviously has excellent judgment, too!

Martha Z said...

What a great reminder, it just takes a few minutes to stop and listen and ease the boredom of the elderly. Although it does seem like this lady tries to find her own antidote to the boredom and loneliness that the elderly often face.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What an inspiration she is....! I tell you...To have your "HEALTH" is the most important thing...TRULY!

How delightful that you met her and now have this lovely friendship--You ARE a 'dear girl' Dianne!

Hilary said...

Oh thank you for sharing this wonderful encounter. She sounds like a day-maker. As are you. Thank you for sharing this Chanel-toting lady with us.

maryt/theteach said...

Thank you, Dianne for that story. I often end up talking to people and I'm glad I did... :)

Jeff B said...

Beautiful. Our society doesn't always take the time to care for the older generations. I'm sure your new found friend really appreciates you taking the time to chat with her.

Grayquill said...

Sweet! - I am sorry I am having a tough time typing - I must have something in my eye...
You made my day with this story - Thanks!

jennifer said...

Dianne, this made me feel quite cozy.

My daughter had to get booster shots and I was taking her back to school. I told her "I want to show you something." We drove by a house that I had fallen in love with.

A lady (probably in her mid 70s) was in the yard next door. She had on a lacy camisole under and snug tshirt, cammo capris with hot pink splotches, a black cowboy hat with a turquoise pin on front, and a pair of Uggs. She waved us down and talked to us for 45 minutes about the house that was for sell next door and her life. She told us "I am an artist."

My daughter and I were charmed by this mischievious lady who was a shut in due to caring for her husband(Parkinsons). I was SO glad that I took the time to stop and I would like to go see her again.

Ivanhoe said...

Boy, did I miss you and your writting! Hope to be around more often.
Happy Easter, Di!

Dianne said...

mare - tiny dancer! that's wonderful, thanks

micky - I know you're one of the good ones :)

border - thank you!! so nice to see you

bob kat - I'm so glad I stopped that first day

linda - the little memories aren't the important ones
I bet you remember and will remember all the important stuff

martha - she seems to have a lot of friends and she keeps very busy which I'm sure has a lot to do with how young she feels

old old lady of the hills - thank you :) you always make me smile

hilary - a day-maker, I like that, I think I'll start a series about day-makers, thanks for the idea

mary - I can easily picture you having these conversations :)

jeff - my Nana used to say she didn't mind being old, she just didn't like being invisible
that stuck with me

grayquill - that is high praise! thank you, you made my day :)

jennifer - I can picture her!! she sounds wonderful
I hope you do go back to visit, I bet she'd love it
you're a good soul Jen

ivanhoe - so great to see you!! thanks

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

I love this post Di!
What a great story.

Sylvia K said...

Marvelous post, Di! Sorry I'm so late getting around, but the computer problem really messed me up for nearly a week. This is very inspiring!


kcinnova said...

Well chosen as POTW by Hilary. :)

järnebrand said...

My heart feels good now. :)
Thank you so much for sharing this. Wonderful.
And congrats on the POTW!
Love/ Jo.

Steve Gravano said...

What a fabulous story. Congratulation on the POTW.

Cricket said...

A lovely, lovely story. Thank you and congratulations on the potw.

I can't read a story like this without a bit of a pang. I'm pretty sure you've read some of my own posts about my Nana. Your description of your friend is something like who my Nana was inside, you know? Who she really was, or would have been, had MS not taken her mobility... who she once was, and wished she could have been.

Circumstance had forced her to live mostly in her mind. That was ok, she had the intellect for it, but it left her fully aware of what she had lost. i know she found that difficult.

I suppose what I'm saying is that even the elderly who don't look so good for 92 may also have been a dancer once. Sometimes it's easy to forget that.

Great story.

Suldog said...

Tremendous story, well told. Congratulations on your POTW. It was deserved, for sure.

MaggieGem said...

What a great story, sometimes it just takes a few moments to slow down and connect to see what life is really about!

Well done!

Daryl said...

Back to say
Congrats on POTW from Hilary

TSannie said...

This is wonderfully written. Your POTW is well deserved. Do you still see your friend?

Land of shimp said...

Oh dear, Google is having another case of the vapors, I see.

Well, I will attempt to recreate my comment and this time I'll save it, just in case :-)

Congratulations on the post of the week mention over at Hilary's blog. What a charming, and uplifting story and post this is.

We have the "feel free to strike up a conversation with me" vibe in common, and I've got my own little connection of smaller, older ladies at the grocery store, always so happy to see me. For one thing, I'm good about getting things down from high shelves.

But what a nice, gentle reminder this was that when someone reaches out to us, quite often we're the ones who end up gaining the most.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Another reason I love Hilary-- This post was brilliant and I would've missed it.


ethelmaepotter! said...

What a beautiful story!

Your friend is an inspiration to us well as your casual friendship with her.

Congrats on POTW!

ethelmaepotter! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pauline said...

It could have been my grandmother you stopped to talk with - or anyone's. It's heartwarming to read such stories!

holdingmoments said...

Lovely story.

Congratulations on POTW.
Well deserved.

Brian Miller said...

beautiful post. so many stories walk the street waiting to be heard and you captured this one masterfully. congrats on the POTW!

Cedar said...

This was very sweet...made my heart skip a couple times. Thanks!

TechnoBabe said...

Busy people in their busy lives who don't take the few minutes to speak to someone like the Chanel toting lady miss out on such charm and genuine humanness. This is one of the stories I will remember and let it remind me to reach out more.

Cloudia said...

SO grateful that I did not miss this gem!

Aloha from Waikiki

Do look in tomorrow for something special

Comfort Spiral

Joanna Jenkins said...

Congratulations on your Post of the Week honor from Hilary. This is a lovely post.

Nice to meet you. I'll be back again soon.

JC said...

Wow !!!

CherylK said...

Fantastic post and very, very worthy of the top billing from Hilary. What a great story. Congratulations from a new fan.

ds said...

Back with a huge CONGRATULATIONS on your POTW. This is such a wonderful story--well done, Dianne! :D

Kelly H-Y said...

I loved this ... beautifully told. Such wonderful connections can come from simply stopping to say 'hi'. Congrats on your POTW with Hilary!

Mountain Photog said...

Wonderful post, Dianne! It reminds me of a song by John Prine titled "Hello in There":

You know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder every day.
But old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, "Hello in there, hello."

So if you're walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."

I'm glad you took the time to say, "Hello in there." You never know the stories lurking behind ancient eyes.