Friendship Set to Music. That is what the brochure said. I looked at my husband of thirty-five years. I could not imagine a day when he would even suggest we take dance lessons. And these weren’t just any kind of dance lessons. The brochure he held in his hand was advertising square dance lessons. The lessons were free. Three dates were listed starting the first Tuesday in January. Attending one of the sessions would be at the very least, a cheap date.
I smiled. “Sounds like fun.”
I doubted that when the date rolled around he would follow through. Sometimes, something sounded like a good idea at the moment, but when the time arrived, Tom would balk and grumble about going to an event.
We had just entered a new season of our lives. Our youngest daughter had married. We were official empty nesters. The process had been a long one. Years earlier, when Kendall initially left for college we had a taste of the empty nester experience. I remember the first Friday night we were not headed to a high school football game to watch Kendall cheer. We quickly realized that many of the people we would have called friends were actually acquaintances; parents of Kendall’s friends.
For most of our daughter’s college career we had found our social outlet through activities designed for us as individuals. Tom enjoyed his golf league and playing a round or two with friends from church. I had taken on a more active role in our Women’s Ministry team, including a weekly Bible study.
We had fallen into a rhythm of sorts that seemingly met our individual needs. When the first Tuesday of January arrived, I casually mentioned the lessons to Tom.
“Are we going to try this?” I asked.
“’Sure, if you want to,” he replied. I was surprised.
“Okay,” I answered, “but I am not wearing a fluffy dress or big hair!”
The lessons were held at the county park in a real barn. A long table boasted a bowl of popcorn, cookies, pretzels, water, and coffee. The atmosphere was “wholesome.” I smiled to myself at the thought. It would be a descriptor I looked for in planning activities for my kids.
That night we learned the person directing our movements was referred to as the caller. We learned a few basic moves. We also learned that square dancing was declared the national folk dance by President Reagan. I loved the free lesson but I couldn’t read Tom’s reaction. The caller invited all newcomers to return the next week. I was ready. However, I told myself, if Tom didn’t like it I would not whine or beg. As we walked out to the car, Tom surprised me by naming all the other people we knew we should ask to join us the following week. He was hooked.
As it turned out, square dancing is more involved than I remembered it being in my sixth grade physical education class. Our lessons extended over a period of nine months. We then joined a square dance club. We found ourselves going out to eat with fellow dancers, traveling to weekend events, and sharing our joys and sorrows with our newfound friends. Square dancing is, by its very structure, a social activity.
When my husband died in October 2014 our square dance community rallied around me. They brought food to our family the night of the visitation. Cards and letters poured into the house. Dancers delivered meals. I looked out one snowy day in winter to see one of our square dance friends shoveling my driveway.
It has been nearly five years now since Tom left this earth for heaven. A couple of weeks ago, I headed back to “the barn” where square dance lessons are held. There were a lot of new people there but many familiar faces. I was greeted with hugs and smiles. One of the men offered to be my partner for the night as I brushed up on some of the basic moves.
I thought it would be hard to walk into that space again. I thought it would be challenging to dance without Tom. In the end, though, I discovered that the brochure was right in the first place. Square dancing is Friendship Set to Music.
Through these past few years I’ve learned the friendship remains even when the music fades. Maybe that is the greatest gift of all.