My husband Peter and I wash our dinner dishes to music. Some evenings it’s Willie Nelson or John Prine. Other evenings it’s Dire Straits. We knew John Prine was sick with the virus and on a ventilator the end of March, and with his fragile health, doubted he’d survive Covid-19. Each day we check the news bulletins. The day that John Prine died, April 7th, we listened and watched excerpts of his concerts on Utube, our version of attending a memorial service. “How could he ever be replaced?” we asked each other. “His songs are so good and his jokes are so funny. What an idea—“Oh Boy Records”—a name to take you through good times and bad. He’s a legend.” Our rendez-vous with John Prine continued for several evenings and gradually we started again listening to other musicians we can both agree on. When Peter is not in the kitchen I opt for some folk acoustic favorites: David Wilcox, Joni Mitchell or a little Motown with Laura Nyro.
One of our first dates, thirty years ago, was going to a dance lesson to learn what is known as East Coast Swing. As with all group dance lessons, the men form an inside circle and the women an outer circle, enabling you to rotate partners as you learn a new step. We both had to step outside to laugh when we initially glimpsed one of the ladies wearing a tiny miniature hat pinned to her head. Did she think her headgear was fashionable or was it some sort of bow? It’s funny the things you remember. I can’t tell you what songs we danced to, but I can describe that little hat.
During our marriage we’ve taken a number of dance lessons: tried to learn the rhumba, Cha-cha, Viennese Waltz, West Coast Swing, Foxtrot, and Argentine Tango. Some we do better than others. We have fun trying to get it right.
The Willie Nelson Station is more likely to provide the dancing music: a snappy two-step or a waltz. Usually other artists are thrown into the mix: Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Chris Kristofferson.
Other evenings we do a bit of rock step jitterbug. The two-step is a traveling dance, like the fox trot or the tango. The waltz can also move, dip and turn. Depends on the song and the waltz. Such dances can provide aerobic exercise.
It’s a small kitchen, but we manage to go round and round the center island out the door into the hallway. My husband Peter likes to call our journeys around the kitchen island dancing in “The Corral” because we are going in a circle. If you have ever gone country western dancing, you know the way traffic moves: slower dancers gravitate towards the center and faster ones move along the outside, as if they are traveling down the highway. Inside the coral we are the amateurs, struggling to keep up with the excellent dancers and we are more towards the slower center of the room. On the very outside of the room are the tables, where patrons sit with their bottle of beer and plate of chicken wings critiquing various dancers’ skill levels. Their observations help them choose their next partner.
For those who do not want to be judged, there are the far corners of the room to practice your steps. In the center hallway of our house the space is long and narrow ,but is free of furniture. That’s where we dance when we are tired of going in a circle. If someone looks in our windows, who knows what they will see. Two crazy old people, dancing, having a good time? It’s a pandemic. What else are we going to do except dance or do exercises on the living room floor to supplement our walks. I miss going to the beautiful Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo, outside Washington D.C. Instead as we move across the floor in our hallway I console myself with admiring the old East Carolina pine floor, an original feature of our own house, as we move back and forth with our dance steps.
If I am feeling irritable from being cooped up too long, a little dancing will make me laugh. Peter is a good partner and he doesn’t step on my toes. Eventually we sit and talk to the dog and lament that we’re running out of movies or shows we want to watch on the computer. I threaten to bring out the scrabble set. We read the paper and plan our next expedition to buy groceries.
Of all the plants that I have ordered for my garden, only the sunflower will get here this week. The others—lilies—are not arriving until the second week of May. Perhaps about the same time the government is talking about possibly lifting some restrictions. I’m cautiously optimistic. This talk of opening a few small shops and allowing exercise classes out of doors is a start, if there are enough masks, protective gear and tests. We do live by yards from the many creeks and rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay and people want to get out on their boats. Despite restrictions, I see some paddle boarding and kayaking but the water temperature is only 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather in Maryland is still unseasonably chilly for April.
On our walk near the site of the old hospital, near Acton Landing, there is the most remarkable display of tulips. The homeowners, who have planted a colorful tulip garden and enhanced their house with a yellow and purple pansies in their window boxes have brightened up the entire neighborhood with their gardens. On their retaining wall is a zany chalk drawing; the sign of a family doing their best to stay upbeat during this Pandemic. It’s a good sign. Yes, this is the sixth week of tight restrictions here in the USA but we are surviving.