I went dancing this week.
I made a friend while dancing this week.
Her name is Juanita.
On Thursday, my job required me to visit the senior citizens’ center, where a group of Eastern Kentucky University nursing students were holding a “Dancing Through the Decades” project. Starting with a few jazzy tunes from the 1920s, music from the different decades played as the students encouraged different seniors to get on the dance floor and figuratively break a leg while literally shaking their hips (and not vice versa).
I arrived a bit early, and Juanita struck up a conversation while we waited for the event to begin.
“Will you be dancing?” she asked.
“Oh, no. I’m a terrible dancer. Besides, I’m just here to take pictures.”
“I’ll bet all the young ladies will be lined up to have a dance with you.”
“I doubt it. I’m a wallflower. I’ll just be sitting in the corner, taking my pictures, watching the dancing.”
“Well, if I see you sitting there acting shy, I’m going to make you dance.”
I know I’m stereotyping here, but I thought she’d forget that conversation.
Juanita was the first one on the dance floor when the music hit, trying her best to get her friends to join her. A shimmy here, a twist there, and soon she had a few older folks out there with her, maybe not exactly raising the roof but at least modifying it a bit.
A couple of songs later, Juanita sauntered my way.
“You’re collecting that dance, aren’t you?” I asked.
She smiled, reached for my hand and away we went.
Now, I can’t dance. I have little rhythm when it comes to something like that, and I’m far too self-conscious. So instead of some swinging and swaying like the seniors surrounding us, I simply led her in somewhat of a sideways shuffle.
I focused more on the conversation, asking Juanita about her past, what she liked at the seniors’ center, things like that. I’m a former reporter, and some days I miss talking to people and hearing their stories.
So that’s what we did.
And, of course, we danced. After the song ended, “Build Me Up, Buttercup” played (if the name doesn’t ring an immediate bell, try this: it’s the song at the very end of There’s Something About Mary; oh hell, just google it already), and I told Juanita she had to join me for this song since it’s one of my favorites.
At the end of the song, I asked if I could give her a hug — I don’t get to see my grandmother that often, and I guess I just needed a hug from a granny-type after this difficult week — and she agreed.
About an hour later as the event began to wind down, Juanita walked over to me one more time.
“Kevin, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea bout this, but I just wanted to know if you’re familiar with those gold dollar presidential coins.”
I told her that I had heard of them.
“I don’t have one on me today, but I want you to take this to the bank and exchange it for a gold coin.”
She discreetly handed me a folded up dollar bill, slipping into my hand without drawing notice from those around us.
“And what I want you to do is to hold on to that gold coin and think of today and how much this meant to me every time you see it.”
With that, she hugged me and left, leaving me standing there wanting to cry.
I went to the bank yesterday.
I got two gold coins.
And when I give the second one to Juanita, I hope she remembers the day and how much it meant to me.