Monday, April 27, 2009

My Golden Dancers

Poetry of the Foot and a Lyric to our Soul

By Elita Sohmer Clayman

Last year, as I was waiting for my husband to pick me up at the hair salon where I go every Saturday to get beautiful once again, I saw someone that I knew and had not seen for twenty years. She was my husband’s first cousin’s former wife. They divorced and quite bitterly, so the family never saw her after that event.

At first as I saw her approaching the salon’s door, I thought I will just ignore her unless she says hi first. We had not been close when she was married and in the family, only saw her maybe ten times in ten years. However, I thought, I will say hi and how are you and I did and she looked at me quizzically as if she did not know for sure who I was. She always had bad eyesight and wore very thick eyeglasses. I said how are you and she replied fine and proceeded in the salon, walking with her cane.

So I thought to myself, next time I will not say hi because you did not care enough to ask me how I felt. The following week I saw a death notice in the paper with her name. The hairstylist told me that on that Saturday when I had said hi, she had her hair done and then went with her friends to see the French circus that was in town. At the conclusion, she dropped to the ground having had a major stroke and died a few days later.

When I heard this, I was shocked. I thought back and said to myself that I was glad I had said hi because of course, it was for the final time. I thought a silly thought. If I had known ( how could we ever) that she would be having a stroke and it was her final day on earth with all her faculties, could I, a mere mortal have warned her to go to a doctor and maybe she would be alive.

This is all nonsense on my part, but it is kind of a neat thought. If we could warn folks of bad things that might be happening to them so soon after seeing them, then we could save them. Also, if we could approach folks and tell them that something good was going to happen, would not that be splendid too?

When my mom was dying almost twenty-five years ago, we all sat in the hospital by her side and talked and watched over her, not really knowing if she could hear us or not.

Actually, she could because I mentioned to my brother and daughter who were there that Mom disliked a man in her office. He called her and constantly said Hi a Leah. Her name being Leah and the race track in Florida was Hialeah. It irritated her very much.

As we sat by her side, I told this Hialeah story to my brother and daughter and out of this quiet and dying woman, she opened up her mouth and said

“Yes and his name was Mr. Trimble.” So she heard my story and recalled his name from her memory and it had been probably twenty or thirty years since she had heard him call her that. Which proves in a way, that we often remember the not so good things as much as we remember the great things or happenings even at a time like this.

When I told this Mr. Trimble story to mom’s youngest brother he made an interesting comment that my brother, daughter and I thought quite unusual. He said that he was in a restaurant at the moment that mom died and he not knowing she had passed away received a phone call at the reservation desk of the establishment. They knew his name because he frequented it often and called him for this phone call. In those days, there were no cell phones and so Uncle Louie came to the phone and as he said hello, the person hung up. In his mind he said that must have been Mom to whom he was devoted to all his life, her being the older sibling and him the youngest of seven children. He said this was her way of saying goodbye to him. We all thought him a little egotistic thinking that Mom took time out to say goodbye to him when we had been sitting there for days in the hospital by her side. When I thought about it after the mourning period was over, I realized that he was not being pretentious; he was feeling wounded in not being there at the moment it happened and it made him experience peace in thinking him special that she ‘stopped’ and phoned him. That was ok with me because he had been a good and caring brother in her golden years. If that made him more comfortable, then it was fine with me. He was not an aggravating type person; he was an excellent sibling to her. It is better to be an Uncle Louie than a Mr. Trimble.

If we can help someone while we are here on this earth to improve their life in any way, then we should. Ballroom dancing and any sport is a way of enticing our heart to be active and our brain to be working. The orthopedic doctor told me to keep on moving my right arm because if it hurts and I let it sit idle, then it will never improve because of a lack of a workout. In the old days, when one had arthritis, they just sat and rested. Now, we are told to move on and exercise and get those muscles and body parts working because if we do not, they will atrophy. We will be the worse for it.

Our brains have to be stimulated and in a sense massaged by our using them to think, to read, to be active and certainly ballroom dancing makes us think with our brain first and our feet and arms second. When I first learned to dance, I was always looking down at my feet to see if they were moving well. I could not understand when the coach said “do not look at your feet.” I wondered how you dance and not see what you are doing. Of course, we all go through that thought and we all stop looking down.

Mr. Trimble annoyed my mom each and every day at work for years saying Hi a Leah and he knew he did and continued like a child to say it constantly. Actually, my mom did not call herself Leah; she shortened it to be modern to Lee. So he calling her Leah was really not referring to her, as she had dropped the “H” and I used to kid her that she was a modern woman way before women exerted themselves and changed things in their lives.

Sometimes I think it so marvelous of her to do that and I think about my own name which is constantly mispronounced. It seems that the more educated the person; my doctor especially constantly mispronounces my name. It is unusual, true and now that I am older I love being able to call up on the phone and say to a receptionist at a doctor or dentist office or salon or whatever, this is Elita. I am like Ann-Margaret, Madonna etc.

My name is pronounced E-Lee-Ta. The Ta is pronounced Ta and not Da like these educated souls say. My three grandsons could pronounce it right when they just learned to talk. I get annoyed like Mom did when it is pronounced incorrectly, especially when I have already corrected them many times. People who knowingly irritate other people should really step back and think how they would like to be agitated often when they have been corrected many times. It is a small thing but still an unnecessary irritant.

Mom was ahead of her time in dropping the “h.” I am ahead of my time by trying to correct someone and then saying to myself “forget it; it is not worth the effort.” Mr. Trimble should have been referred to as Mr.Dimble. That would have stopped him for sure. It is certainly more to one’s credit to be a soothing source to someone else rather than an aggravating person.

We should not annoy others and we can enhance their lives by actually saying hi to them, what’s new and let’s go ballroom dancing real soon. We can bring them to a social dance so they can see what fun they can have and how their brains will react to the music and the great atmosphere of a dance setting. We need not fear that this is the last time we will see them, so we are glad we talked because when they go out and ballroom dance, they will prolong their activities and approach their lives with great anticipation of doing something so worthwhile. The delightful time they have interacting with other people at the dance will certainly stimulate their lives and their daily living.

A friend of mine said that after reading my next article about angels on this earth, she always knew I was an angel. I do not know why she said that because we rarely see each other any longer, but we do email several times a week. So if in her mind, I am an angel, so be it and I will continue to steer people to go out and dance, even if they sit most of the dances out, just being there is beneficial.

I am glad I said hi that day to my husband’s former cousin, I am glad Mom could hear us talking and that we can say “her mind was there all the way to the last few moments.” She passed away about five minutes later after saying the Mr. Trimble line. She may not have been able to be active or walk, but the mind was still remarkably alert and that is what we are desire in our later and senior years. We can help our minds and our body parts to be vigorous and should try to ballroom dance when we have the opportunity,

Angels and good people do not annoy, do not mispronounce, do not ignore others, and do not sit around. We stay active, and we help where we can. This splendid thing called life deserves to be used in the right way and we shall do that and start now if we are not already practicing it as part of our lives. So to Mr. Trimble, wherever you may be, you are remembered for being quite naughty, we prefer to be remembered for being helpful endearing folks If in our lifetime, we point one person in the direction of ballroom dancing and that person enjoys it and prospers in doing this lovely action; then we will have been as the saying goes “an angel here on this earth.” The reason being is that if we assist someone even a stranger to us to achieve an ego boost from dancing, then we ourselves can rejoice and be proud of what we have attained. Angels do not dance, us living folks can dance, can enhance others’ existences. Thomas Carlyle said “existence is a little gleam of time between two eternities.” In this eternity, let us be productive and help someone new to dancing to gain that gleam that comes from poetry of the foot as John Dryden called it.

Poetry of the foot is surely a lyric to our soul.

Keep on Dancing

You can email me at


Anonymous said...

Poetry of the foot is what we dancers do,Elita. You surely got it down pat. A pat on the back for you Elita in writing these endearing stories of your life and blending them with ballroom dance. To you I raise a glass in a toast to your writing and your senior spirit.

Callie Dearborn

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. love these stories. love also my ballroom dancing. love the Fred Astaire where I go for lessons. Even my husband is beginning to'like the lessons, sometimes'

Dorothy G. of DC Northern Va. area

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, wonderful, that is what these stories are.

Anonymous said...

any one desiring to contemplate taking ballroom dance lessons needs to read these My Golden Dancers articles by Ms. Clayman. This will make the decision easier. She makes it seem so life changing dancing and prancing and romancing and just plain old fun.


Anonymous said...

Say hi to everyone and tell them to go and dance at least once every week. I agree that your brain and feet will certainly benefit...

Thanks so much for steering us to ballroom dance. Life is sure sweeter when we have that to look forward to at the end or the beginning of a new week.

We go dancing twice a week now that we are semi retired. We do not retire from dance because dance keeps us from being 'tired.'
Elsie and Daniel

Anonymous said...

Alex and Marialee say hi to Elita for all of her encouraging and stimulating articles on the Fred Astaire site. Bravo, you are indeed a peacemaker in sending us off to dance and more dance.

We took our six yr old granddaughter to watch one afternoon and we promised her we would pay for ballroom lessons for her when she is about ten or so.

She said 'thank you grandmommie, that is the best birthday 10th you will give me.'

Anonymous said...

Oh Elita,
You are beloved by all the dancers who read your articles on the Fred Astaire site and the Rene Site.

Evita ran the country. I do not think she was liked by the people.There is one letter different in your names. The v to l and you Elita are loved and revered by us dancers all over the country I have a friend in Canada who reads your articles and she feels the same way.

Thank you so much for what you are doing for our country in stimulating us to dance.


Anonymous said...


Marissa Jean Altamont,North Carolina

Anonymous said...

I was reading this column and realized that I knew Elita when she was a little girl and danced for the butcher Mr.Rodman which she wrote about in one of her articles.

Hey Elita, it is me Marguerite Spencer-Ralws from Westwood Avenue in Baltimore City. I remember when you went to Mr. R's butcher shop do they still have them anywhere in the USA? You would tap for him and he would give your mom meatbones for the veggie soup for free and your mom would share them with my mom Ruthie.

Wow what a small world... best to you. Now I am quite a senior -senior since I was many years older than you Elita then and still am.

I dance with my husband Harold here in New York every week,.

Small world. Marguerite

Anonymous said...

Looking forwd to your next article, I can hardly wait..

Abby and Sammie Linden
Newark, New Jersey