Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dancing in the dark

When I met Lydia she was wearing a dress that looked like a red picnic table cloth with lace strung around it and a red hat with a wig attached inside. She told me she was a 65-year-old gospel singer and she wanted to teach me how to flatfoot (it's like tap dancing meets riverdance, check it out). "C'mon girl," she yells as she grabs my hand, and with her 4'8" body pulls me onto the floor with more force than a lucha libre wrestler. We danced and I was exhausted after the first song... But, we stayed for many.

After the evening was over I offered to help her carry her belongings back to her car. I slung her bright white guitar over my shoulder and carried a bag full of framed 8x10 photographs with me. (She loves to take pictures of people and blow them up - whether or not they are good - and give them out framed and matted. I have a few now, including some Polaroids.) In the parking lot she told me I was a sweet young lady. "I love you, honey," she said. "Can I play you a few gospel songs?" I couldn't refuse such an offer.

She pulled a new-in-the-box electric mandolin out of her trunk and slid a cartridge inside it to provide a back up beat. "This is for all the veterans," she whispered into the red darkness of exiting taillights.

As she sang, she swayed back and forth and played with so much passion I thought her skinny fingers were going to pound through the black plastic casing of the mandolin.

She played three songs and by the middle of the third, she was crying and dancing. It was just the two of us in a nearly empty parking lot. I, in my bright blue dress and she in red and white. It was beautiful.

By the end, I too was crying and dancing.

This is how I met Lydia.

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