After bingo and before dinner the music starts.
A DJ in a bowler hat scrolls through sixty-year-old (and older) songs on an iPod, offering commentary on each piece before it’s played. His audience calls out answers to his trivia questions: “Glenn Miller!” “Julius LaRosa!” “Les Brown!”
The DJ, Randy, prods the audience to come out on the dance floor without success until he plays “String of Pearls” by Glenn Miller. A lone couple steps out on the dance floor tentatively as if attempting to cross a frozen lake. Uncertainty yields to confidence as they wrap their arms around each other and yield to the music. They dance with the familiarity of two people who have moved in step for more years than they can remember, their feet touching lightly on the floor, hers following his.
Randy announces that the next song is the best dance tune ever and begins to play “You Belong to Me” by Jo Stafford. At least a dozen couples scrape back their chairs from the bingo tables and slowly converge on the dance floor, responding to a command I don’t hear.
I cannot stop staring at them.
Moments earlier they had been senior citizens off for a brief holiday in the Poconos, nursing lingering disappointment over what might have been if only “B4” had been called. But as they dance, however gingerly, 2013 fades away and the Big Band Era takes its place. I see these couples as they truly are. Not the outer shell supported by orthopedic shoes and wrapped in a cardigan, but the forever young spirit within.
I compliment a gentleman and his wife on their dancing when they return to our table. “We’ve been doing this a long time,” he replies with a smile. When I ask how long, he answers, “Fifty-one years.”
The heart keeps its own time---whether five years or five decades have passed is irrelevant when the music starts.