You can’t go home again…

I spent the weekend catching up with some friends from high school back in good old Arlington, Virginia. The only thing is, good “old” Arlington is actually brand-spanking-new-Arlington. The county is one big construction site. Old houses are being torn down and replaced with new ones. The Ballston area has exploded with buildings and is virtually unrecognizable. These days, there are very few familiar landmarks by which I can navigate around my old hometown.

My friends and I have changed too, of course. We’ve been around the block a few times. We’ve traversed the globe. We’ve gotten degrees and had careers. Some of us have married, some of us have divorced, some of us have had children. Some of us have lost people close to us. Although high school doesn’t seem all that long ago, to my astonishment – I myself have somehow become the mother of a high schooler.

For various reasons, we all found ourselves back in Arlington this weekend and decided to meet up with each other in Clarendon. Back in the day, this part of Arlington consisted of one or two streets with a couple of slightly seedy strip malls. The only reason I ever went there was to go to a little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant called the Queen Bee. This restaurant is gone, as is pretty much everything else I remember. The whole area has been completely transformed into a bustling mini-metropolis populated by twenty-year-olds. My friends and I, being just a smidge older, felt like a bunch of geriatrics in comparison.

At Cava Mezze, where we had dinner, we held our menus up to our noses and then at arms’ length trying to decipher the tiny print in the dim lighting.

“Do they want to prevent us from actually seeing what’s on the menu? Are they trying to save electricity?” I whined like a petulant old granny.

We moved on to Galaxy Hut, where we soon grew hoarse trying to shout over the clamor of all the young whippersnappers and the thumping music being blasted at full volume. I’m convinced the only possible reason twenty-somethings tolerate such loud music is because they’re not having conversations worth hearing.

Meanwhile, in our corner of the Galaxy, we were having a very interesting conversation. A friend of one of our group whom we had just met started talking about how she happened to have gotten an intimate part of her anatomy pierced in San Francisco by someone with whom the rest of us had gone to high school.

My friend Wendy leaned toward me and shouted, “What did she say she got pierced?”

“It starts with a ‘C’…Don’t make me shout it out loud, Wendy!” I yelled over the din.

“Can we get out of here?,” she said after a while, “I think there’s a coffee shop down the street where we can actually talk.”

Our group minus the piercee, who had drifted off by then, walked a couple of blocks until we found a quiet coffee shop.

My intrepid friend Wendy suggested that it was warm enough to sit outside.

“Sssure!” I said, as I zipped up my coat as far as it would go.

I tried to play it cool. I pretended I felt like this:

even though I actually felt like this:

Thank goodness someone suggested we move a little closer to the café, where we would be less exposed to the wind…I shuffled over there as fast as my legs would carry me.

And then we really caught up. I’ve always liked these friends, but it was lovely to reconnect with them as forty-somethings and to discover that age and life experiences have made them even better than I remembered them being…

The day after…

You can’t really go home again, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing after all…In fact, sometimes the changes wrought by time can be wonderful.

She Was (not) a Dancing Queen

In my last post I wrote of my ignominious history with Physical Education, and in particular, about the kayaking debacle in which I almost killed my first college P.E. teacher. After three terrifying kayak sessions, I came to my senses and slunk back to where I belonged…a Beginner Aerobics class.

Don’t imagine for a moment that this aerobics class didn’t also hold its own challenges for me. It’s not something I like to talk about, but I suffer from S.K.I.: Severe Kinetic Ineptitude. I’m clumsy, prone to falling, and find it extremely challenging to mimic physical movements. Despite these serious limitations, I managed to plod and stumble my way through the first quarter of aerobics. I gazed with real satisfaction at that first CR (credit) on my report card.

Emboldened by this modest success, the next quarter I signed up for another aerobics class. In my overweening arrogance, I thought I could slack off a bit. I began to miss a class here or there. No big deal…until I missed one too many classes to earn my P.E. credit. I didn’t worry too much about this. I still had four years to take the two more classes I needed to fulfill the phys ed requirement. I figured the credit would simply not show up on my transcript. Imagine my surprise when I found an “F” for Beginner Aerobics on my report card. The shame of it was almost too much to bear. Despite the fact that the failing grade did not count towards my G.P.A., my mother was livid. I resolved to sign up for Jazz dance the following quarter. It would be so much fun, I wouldn’t want to miss a single class!

Have I ever mentioned that I am a spectacularly bad dancer? In high school I used to be in all the musicals. I could sing, I could sort of act, but I most definitely could not dance. For big dance numbers when the whole cast was on stage, the choreographer would hide me in the back row where my graceless flailing wouldn’t be so visible. Sometimes there would be others back there with me. We back row dancers never had to move our feet at all. Occasionally we would be assigned a dead-simple semaphore-like movement to perform with our arms to justify our presence on stage. The choreographer charitably dubbed us “the disco line.” During performances I would grimly fix my gaze into the distance as I performed my moves, pretending not to notice my family members in the audience, poking each other and pointing at me as they squirmed and gasped and yelped in paroxysms of helpless laughter.

I boldly showed up to my first jazz dance class ready to leave my sorry terpsichorean past behind me. I came wearing a ratty t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers and was slightly dismayed to see that everyone else was sporting leotards, leggings, and jazz shoes. The teacher began showing us some basic jazz moves. She eased into things by teaching us how to do “jazz hands.” I have to admit, I was pretty damn amazing at “jazz hands.” I actually kind of blew myself away. She taught us a few more moves. “Step touch” – a piece of cake! A “jazz square” was a little more complicated, but just about manageable. “Step, ball, change” – yes! Chassé – got it! She had us practice these basic moves for about half the class.

It was going pretty well, though she wouldn’t stop squawking at me.

“Adrienne! Relax your shoulders!…RELAX your shoulders.”

At one point, clearly exasperated, she stomped over to me and said as she forcefully pressed down on my shoulders, “Re-LAX your shoulders!”

Suddenly, a surprised expression dawned on her face, “Oh…you have really broad shoulders. Kind of like a football player.”

At that moment, a deeply suppressed memory from my high school days came flooding back into my mind. One day, my dad questioned me about what I wanted to do with my life. I had no answer for him, so I flippantly tossed off the most preposterous thing I could think of…

“I’m going to be a go-go dancer, Dad!”

A pained look passed over his face.

“Adrienne,” he said solemnly, gently, and with the utmost kindness, “to be a dancer, you have to have a fancy body. You don’t have a fancy body.”

Just as I had back then, I soldiered on.

“OK, class! Now we’re going to have some fun! We’re going to put these moves together into a dance sequence!”

The teacher shimmied and pirouetted, kicked and pranced across the gym floor as she called out the moves she was performing.

“It’s your turn now. Form a line and go one at a time. 5! 6! 7! 8! Jump lunge, hitch kick, chassé, cross, side kick, barrel turn, kick, ball change, step touch, step touch, soutane piqué, chaîné, aaaaaaaand jazz hands!”

This was, without a shadow of a doubt, even more horrifying than having to hang upside down in a kayak in the icy cold Connecticut River.

One by one my classmates strutted and danced across the floor with bored expressions on their faces, expertly executing the sequence like a whole chorus line of Bob Fosse protégés.

When it was my turn, I lumbered through the moves like a drunken ox. (I did finish strong, however, with my awesome “jazz hands”). The room grew silent. My classmates gazed intently at the ceiling, at a piece of lint they suddenly discovered on their leotard, at the floor…As for my teacher, she said nothing, but stood there with a thoughtful and slightly stunned expression on her face. Somehow or other, I managed to get through enough of these torture sessions to get another P.E. credit under my belt. Eventually, I got my third and final P.E. credit after one last round of Beginner Aerobics.

Hope you have a wonderful, wonderful weekend and week. I’m leaving today to go to Korea for work. My sister’s coming with me, so I’ll get to play too! I’ll be back in a week with photos and more stories…See you then!