Let the Little Girl Dance!

Ok. Let’s begin this post with “full disclosure.” Be warned: I am the mother of three amazing daughters – Lisa, Rebecca, and Christina – and today I am taking this opportunity to do some BRAGGING about my middle daughter, Rebecca.

I just finished reading Rebecca’s second published mystery novel, I’ll Die at Your Wedding, and I am glowing with pride. Remember, friends: I am both a writer myself and a retired English teacher. I am also an avid mystery reader. I have read every Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, and countless other classic (and contemporary) mysteries, multiple times!

So, though I am Rebecca’s mom, I am probably her worst potential critic. I wasn’t too worried about reading Rebecca’s second mystery, though, since her first one, Murder at the Arabian Nights, was so well-written. She has a talent for creating real characters that are both likeable and believable – characters you wish lived next door. On second thought, maybe not, since they keep finding dead bodies….

But now that I have finished I’ll Die at Your Wedding, I will have to wait. And wait. And wait, for the next book in the Belly Dance Mystery Series. Why? Because Rebecca is too busy actually belly dancing! Or flamenco dancing. Or composing movie soundtracks, or….

Rebecca is an artist, a singer, a composer, a jewelry designer, a comedian, a dancer, and of course, a published author! When God handed out the talents He lavished Rebecca with many more than she could handle. Hence the long wait between mystery novels! Grrr.

I share all this with you, first, because I am a mom and I love to brag about my kids. (Yes, you will be hearing more about Lisa and Christina in future posts, but I will limit myself to one daughter at a time…) But, since this website is called Growing in Grace…at any age, and is supposed to be about the challenges and the blessings of aging, there should be a “point” to this bragging of mine. Right?

So, let me tell you a little about Rebecca’s first dance teacher, Maria Morca. Early on in Rebecca’s dance life, she joined Maria’s performing troupe – and at that time, Maria was seventy years old! If you want to know more about this amazing dancer/teacher, go to her website (click for link).  While you are there, watch the video!!! The energizer bunny would have trouble keeping up with this octogenarian!

Maria Morca turned eighty-one this year – and she is still teaching and dancing. Amazing! I’m sure, if you talked to Maria, she would tell you that dance was in her blood, a part of her soul. As Maria says on her Home Page: “Dance brings out your inner beauty, femininity, sensuality, self-worth, and joy!”

Rebecca would heartily agree. Though her feet have become badly damaged from too much tapping (in flamenco dance) and every muscle in her middle-aged body screams when she puts it through hour-long practices, Rebecca has to dance. Shortly after the recent Orlando tragedy, she posted a message on Facebook that says it all:

Time to put on my flamenco shoes and practice dance. Like I was doing when the news broke all over the gym about the Paris shootings. Like I did in the middle of the San Bernardino shootings. Like now. I am tired of dancing in spite of the hatred and cruelty in the world, when my heart is heavier than my feet. But it is, in its own way, a small act of defiance, a statement that hate and bigotry cannot win. A number of the people in Orlando were dancers. I dance for them today.

When I read this, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I remembered another time Rebecca danced. She was about three years old and we were attending a folk Mass. The music inspired Rebecca, but the pews were just too restrictive; so she made her escape to the aisle and headed toward the front where there was lots of room.

I didn’t notice her escape until I saw her step up past the Communion rail and begin to spin to the guitar music. I sped out of the pew and started up the aisle to catch my whirling dervish; but I was stopped in my tracks by the voice of the celebrating priest — “Let the little girl dance!”

Another memory comes to me…my grandmother (Mom) sitting in the sunniest window of her summer home in Santa Cruz California. From the time I was nine, I spent a few idyllic weeks every summer with Mom.   Memories of those visits are some of my sweetest – but this one was a little different.

That day, Mom turned to me and asked, “So, Betty, what are you going to do when you grow up?”

“I don’t know yet, Mom,” I responded. “Maybe someday I will be a writer.”

Mom sat up straight and spoke in a voice she seldom used, the voice of authority – the listen to me, this is important voice grownups sometimes use. “If there is a writer in you, Betty, then write NOW. Don’t wait until someday! Someday might never come – or if it does come, you might not be able to write any more. Whatever is in you, in your soul, DO IT NOW. And don’t stop.”

(Mom was a talented artist in her youth. She had the rare ability to paint translucent white roses in watercolor, which I am told is quite a talent. But then she had eight children – hence, “no time” to paint.)

Mom shared with me how much she wished she had kept painting – even a bit here and there – when she was a young mother. Now she had all the time in the world, but crippling arthritis and dimming eyesight made it impossible to hold a brush or see the canvas. It was the only sad moment I ever spent with my grandmother, listening to her regrets.

So, what’s the “point” of all this reminiscing? I think it is partly a lecture to myself – and partly an opportunity to encourage those who will read this post. There are some things I can no longer do – ride a Tilt-A-Whirl for one (see last week’s post). And, though I once won a first place dance trophy, rocking and rolling to Ray Charles, I can no longer dance. (Walking is sometimes a challenge…) But those things are not a “part of my soul.”

Writing is – and that’s why I am writing again. I’m enjoying the “blog writing,” even though it’s frustrating to see how much my writing skills have rusted through the years of non-use. It IS true: if you don’t use it, you will lose it.

But something more than blog writing is stirring within my soul. It’s been nagging me for several years and I have always argued with it: It is too late. I am too old. Too sick. Finally, I have stopped arguing.

This isn’t the time or place to share with you much more than the fact that I am beginning to work on a “book project.” As I have said before, I think, cancer has a way of turning “somedays” into NOW days. And NOW is the time.

You might say that I am following in my daughter’s footsteps. No, I am not writing a mystery novel – I haven’t a clue how to go about that! But I will be writing about Mystery itself. (That’s all I will say for now.)

As I recently said in a former post, souls don’t age. But they do GROW. In fact they must grow or they will shrivel. Within each soul are “facets” that need cleaving. “Windows” that need polishing. Features that need nurturing. Those “facets” or “features” can be talents, like art or music or dance – or writing. AS LONG AS WE CAN, we should be developing those talents. We have got to stop waiting until “someday.” It is NOW DAY every day of our lives.

So, whatever your age or circumstances, if there is an artist in you, PAINT! If there is a singer in you, SING! If there is an inventor in you, INVENT! If there is a master gardener in you, GARDEN! If there is a writer in you, WRITE! And if there is a dancer in you, DANCE! Dance as long as you are able to get out of your chair and shimmy! If you can’t swing to the beat of the music as you once did, then tap your feet! As that wise priest said so many years ago, “Let the little girl (in you) Dance!”

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