This Ain’t Staying in Vegas
Me and my mates
We’ve all heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” right? Well, not necessarily.
There are few places I honestly can say I don’t like. Las Vegas is one. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m just expressing a personal preference.
So this year I was less than enthused when I learned our clogging team was going to Vegas for a national competition. Don’t get me wrong. I love my teammates. These ladies are good friends and I’ve been blessed to dance with some of them, on and off, for almost twenty years. Truly I could be in no better company, no matter where my little dancing feet take me.
The few months prior to the competition were not as smooth as I would have liked. I pulled a hamstring months before and had a hard time catching up to the level of dance needed for such an event. It’s rare I say that I am too old for something. But let’s face it, friends, the calendar doesn’t lie. Injuries are harder to recover from now days. Still, I practiced and trained (I laid out a fortune for chiropractic care and massage too). Did I mention how much I love these ladies? Then the big week arrived.
I remember asking, “Lord what am I doing here?” I wasn’t sure I was up to it, and didn’t want to cost the team a medal they so richly deserved. And then the final day came – hours before show time, and one of my teammates, Miss Stephanie, asked, “Laura would you be my stage mom?”
What this means is I was agreeing to help Stephanie out of one costume and into another, complete with all necessary accessories, hair adjustment and makeup check. I was thrilled. Of course I would be there for her. I said to myself, “Oh perhaps this is what I’m doing here. I’m here to help my friend.”
Right before we were called to dance, our director, Miss Colette, gathered us in a circle and told us how proud she was of us, how we had worked hard, and she had nothing but confidence in us. I cried as she spoke and we clustered together, listening to the coach and holding each other up, figuratively and literally. I said, “Oh this is why I’m here – to be part of a group I admire and love and to take the stage with my mates in what is likely my last national competition.”
When we were on stage, the lights went up and the music started. The game was on. There was no worry about forgetting steps/patterns or not being worthy to stand on that stage because of age or injury. There was a belonging and the knowledge that I am part of something I love and people I love dearly. There truly is something stimulating about flood lights, house lights and a room full of young and old alike (not just our families) rocking, clapping, and jumping around because we are dancing our little hearts and souls out for them.
When your peripheral vision shows young kids (competitors) cheering you on and hopping around, there is a joyful feeding of the soul that is inexplicable. The experience was made sweeter by the sight of judges coming out of their chairs with hands clapping over their bobbing heads. And I said, “Oh, this is why I’m here – to offer others the bliss of the dance that I feel every time I move.”
There are so many blessings listed here, but perhaps one of the best ones came after our performance. A young, (maybe thirteen years old), beauty from Honduras came up to me and said, “Tu eres muy bonita, Senora (you are so beautiful). Cuantos años…” She stopped short of asking the question, which in all cultures is considered rude and disrespectful. “How old are you?”
I took her beautiful young hands in mine and said, “I am sixty-three years old my dear. And I want to tell you that you can do this for the rest of your life if you take care of yourself, honor your body and never allow anyone to take your dream. Ok?”
She smiled at me and said, “That is what my grandmother says.”
“I am a grandmother too my dear,” I told her, “and we are always right.”
She ran off with her friends, then turned to wave at me. I smiled and mouthed, “Good luck.” I winked, and she winked back.
I looked up to thank God for all my dancing friends and experiences over the years and around the country. Dancers ran by me, stage moms and teachers issued orders, and my stomach growled in annoyance at being denied. But I stood amidst the chaos, excitement and craziness saying out loud, “Oh this is why I’m here – to encourage a young person to be her best, treat herself well, and hold onto her dreams. Thank you, Father.”
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t tell you we won a platinum award for that dance (one level better than gold). I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I had the time of my life with my mates (dancing and just hanging out). I won’t insult you by trying to make you believe I’m not tickled to know, “there is a dance in this old dame yet.” And I’m sure it’s not hard for my readers to imagine I shall always treasure the conversation I had with a young dancer about age, dancing, and dreams.
But most important of all, beloveds, I want you to know that what this grateful little dancer learned in Vegas this summer, will not just stay in Vegas.
For me, the river is a special place I go with God, to learn, heal, rejoice, question and praise Him. It is there I can more easily remember who I am, and whose I am. The lessons I take away every time I sit in His presence, especially at the water’s edge, are precious to me as are all of you.
If you missed the previous entry about what I learned from meeting two beautiful women in Silverthorne, Co this summer please read Lessons from the River – Part II “Leaving the Door Open or How We Met the Nancies”
Copyright November 2014
Laura L. Padgett